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All eyes on Argentina

Another early finish for California desert lemons

This week marks the last week of lemon shipments from the desert regions of California. The transition to the other districts is already underway and it means an early finish to the season for the desert. Warm and dry conditions have resulted in the fruit maturing at a faster pace. 

"The desert regions have been cleaning up and this will be the last week they will be shipping lemons out of this district," said one California grower. "This is the 3rd year in a row where we have seen an early finish on District 3. A lack of rain and warm days have resulted in the fruit maturing early and culminating in an early finish. We are already seeing the transition to Districts 1 and 2. District 1 is already 60% harvested, while District 2 is sitting at 25%."

It has been observed that medium sizes are abundant while numbers on larger sizes are down. "We are officially in a drought now and growers are irrigating," he said. "The fruit hasn't sized up and there are a lot of medium sized fruit and not too much in the way of larger sizes. We are also seeing an issue with grades out of District 2 so far."

Market in a good position
Current supplies of lemons are excellent as the warm weather has accelerated production. The demand for lemons has meant that suppliers are seeing good movement on fruit. This extends a run of good demand for lemons across a number of sectors. As a result, the market is good and prices are higher than average.

"Lemons are in good supply due to the early maturing of fruit stemming from the warm, dry conditions," the source said. "The market is good, with prices a couple of dollars higher than usual for this time of year. We are also seeing very good movement as lemon demand continues to see an increase. This is across the board, from retail, to foodservice as well as in the export markets. In recent times, the stand-alone displays are becoming popular. Whereas retailers have been averse to them in the past, they are now starting to embrace the concept."

All eyes on Argentina
One of the major potential impacts on the US lemon market this year will be how Argentine imports will affect it. This will be the first year in which Argentine lemons will be allowed into the United States after a lengthy gap, and suppliers will be watching closely to see how the market will react. 

"One of the biggest factors for the lemon market this year will be the amount of offshore supply coming into the United States," he said. "We are seeing a general increase in global supply, and this is the first year that Argentina will have access to the US market since 2001. There is the potential we may see shipments as early as the end of April. Their season begins from when the fist fruit is harvested on April 1. The peak of the season will come in the Southern Hemisphere Winter, in June and July, with the season finishing on August 31."

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