Additional marketers in the organic citrus industry are making the marketplace a bit more of a challenge this citrus season.
At Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, Ca., it has navel oranges, lemons, mandarins, grapefruit, Cara Caras, blood oranges, pomelos and limes all in production currently. “We’re in the peak of the citrus season and supplies are excellent across the board,” says HGO’s Craig Morris. “The next 90 days is the most critical time to promote California citrus for optimum maturity, conditions and flavor. The fruit’s overall condition is superior to last year and our pack outs are higher than they were last season. We’re experiencing a very high quality year.”
And while Morris says supplies overall are up approximately eight percent from last year, the high quality has meant higher pack outs as well. “I’d say overall availability is up 20 percent,” he says. “In the short term, we’ve developed all the varietals we’ve planned and we’re just increasing them in a balanced and strategic manner. We’re growing at about an eight to 10 percent clip annually.”
Demand still growing
However, despite the continued growth in demand for organic citrus—this year, mandarins in particular—and HGO getting more traction with mainstream retailers, the marketplace is feeling more crowded. “More than in years past, we’re experiencing new players in the market in organics. There are more people, some without the history and expertise in organic citrus, and so pricing can be a challenge,” says Morris. “It creates confusion in the marketplace.”
He adds that up until about two weeks ago, prices were trending approximately five percent down from the year prior. “This was manageable. But over the last two weeks, we’ve noticed significant pressure on the marketplace. I think the increased volume that might not be proportionate to the market demand. The market is a little softer for the time being but I believe it’s going to be a temporary window in the middle of the season,” says Morris. “In five to six weeks, we should see significant improvement in the marketplace for the duration.”
Looking ahead though, this challenge serves as a potential warning of what’s to come. “It’s going to present pricing challenges with these other marketers in the industry,” says Morris. “We’re going to have to be more aggressive and maintain and retain our market share.”