California citrus growers worry about coming harvest season due to trade disputes

California citrus growers are worried that they would have a "problematic" season this spring amid trade disputes ignited by the White House with China, Japan and other trade partners. West Coast growers are expected to produce 80 million cartons of navel oranges during the 2018 to 2019 season, a jump of 11 percent over last year.

But Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said that trade issues could make exports of naval oranges to China and Japan "problematic" this season. He was quoted as saying that California shippers exported about 5.5 million cartons of navel oranges to China, but the current trade dispute "eliminated a lot of marketing opportunity for our industry."

As the largest fruit-producing state in the United States, California produces a wide range of citrus items. The Golden State's growers supply over 80 percent of the nation's fresh citrus and export to over 16 foreign countries.

In an interview, Nelsen complained that the Trump government's buying program, which was designed to relieve farmers from the trade disputes, cannot supplant the tonnage that the farmers lost in exports to China.

California's citrus season typically runs until April or May, so there's still time to do business, Nelsen said, but he noted California exporters had already missed out on the Chinese New Year buying period, "a significant marketing opportunity," due to trade disputes.


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