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US (AZ): One man's loss is another man's gain for Yuma lemon growers

This year has been a sweet season for Yuma-area lemon producers after many years of struggling to compete in an increasingly global market. But in this case, the worldwide nature of the market served them well.

Catastrophic weather conditions in two of the world's major citrus producing countries led to a global squeeze on the supply of lemons.

Argentina is the fourth largest lemon producer in the world. Trees in that country's biggest lemon producing region were exposed to extended periods of icy temperatures for several days in late July. Chile, the world's fifth largest lemon producer, also suffered damage from the cold temperatures. The impact of the freezes in both countries was compounded by drought conditions. It's damage that could well carry over into next year.

As a result, lemon prices reached a five-year high this fall, more than doubling since May. "We benefited from someone else's catastrophic failure," said Kurt Nolte, executive director of the Yuma County Cooperative Extension.

In recent years the average price of lemons received by Yuma growers has ranged from $18 to $25 a carton, he reported. This year's season started off in August at $55 a carton. This month it is still above the average at $36 a carton.

"The quality of the crop has been tremendous," Nolte said. "We had great growing conditions this year. Growers not only benefited from high prices, they had good yields and large size fruit. It's like a perfect storm. The citrus industry here has been suffering for years," he said. "It's good to see these hard-working people have a good season. It was refreshing to see some excitement in the industry."


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