US(CA): Lemon prices expected to drop as desert production increases

Lemon imports from Chile and Mexico are complementing supplies from California, though good demand has made for strong prices. Those prices are likely to come down later this month as production in California's desert regions ramp up.

Lemon prices are usually strong in the summer when the central regions supply most of the fruit from the state. Imports from Mexico were short during that period of time, and Chilean imports commanded strong prices because of the added costs associated with imported fruit. But as summer transitions into fall, production in California's District 3 increases and usually softens the market.

On September 23, prices for a carton of grade 75 lemons from California's Central District were between $40.80 and $45.90, and prices for a carton of 115s were between $40.00 and $46.90. Those prices will come down later this month, but the degree to which they will decrease will depend on how much fruit arrives from Mexico. On September 23, prices for a carton of 115s from Mexico were between $22.00 and $26.00, and prices for a carton of 140s were between $17.00 and $22.00.

Another wrinkle in this year's market is the quality of fruit in the face of California's lingering drought. Growers have reported smaller sizing and some quality issues related to the lack of water available, but if those issues turn out to be significant when harvesting this year's desert crop, then prices could remain higher than expected.

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