Japan remains the largest export market for U.S. grapefruits, which are forecast to increase 15 percent to 30,000 metric tons (MT) in market year (MY) 2018/19 due to reports of improved production in Florida.
Successive weather challenges decreased Japanese citrus production, especially of lemon and lemon-like acidic citrus near Hiroshima, where production was hampered first by frost, and then flooding and landslides. The Japanese citrus area continues to decline, though a diversification of citrus varieties and an increased lemon area reflect some areas of expansion.
Japan has a limited area planted for orange production, and, similar to Unshu and other citrus varieties, the planted areas and the production of oranges are on a continuous decline in Japan. In particular, the acreage of the two most popular orange varieties, Navel orange (which accounts for 90 percent of the orange market) and Valencia orange (with a 3 percent share), have been steadily declining for over a decade.
Japanese imports of grapefruit decreased 16.3 percent to 70,726 MT in MY 2017/18. The United States was the second largest supplier of fresh grapefruit, after South Africa. Although U.S. grapefruit exports to Japan declined 26.2 percent in MY 2017/18 from the previous MY, Japan is still the largest export market for the United States. The decline in MY 2017/18 exports was attributed to production constraints in Florida that were related to citrus greening disease and damage from hurricane Irma.
Florida is forecast to recover some production in MY 2018/19 based on USDA’s citrus production forecast. While most of the world produces red grapefruit, Florida produces the white grapefruit preferred by Japanese consumers. As nearly all of Florida’s white grapefruit production is exported to Japan, an increase in production signals a similar increase in exports to Japan. Therefore, FAS/Tokyo anticipates that Japanese imports of the U.S. fresh grapefruit will increase to 30,000 MT in 2017/18.