The persistent drought and heat are having an ever-growing negative effect on Mexican citrus farmers. It means that this year, Mexico's citrus yields will decrease significantly. That's according to a new USDA report.
Orange suffer most from drought and heat
Oranges are the most important citrus variety cultivated in Mexico. Of the total orange production, 55% occurs in the drought-stricken state of Veracruz. Other orange-growing regions include Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Puebla, and Sonora. Here, too, they're increasingly facing this unusual drought. That means that in 2020, the average orange yield per hectare's expected to fall by 34%. It'll drop from 14,36 tons/ha to 9,51 ton/ha. Annual total orange harvest projections indicate that 2020 might have the lowest orange yields in almost 30 years.
Oranges trees in Mexico are, on average, quite old. This is why the drought and high temperatures are hitting this citrus fruit harder than other varieties. The drought and heat are affecting the oranges' size and quality. Many small orange farmers don't use the correct irrigation methods, pesticides, or fertilizers either. A lot of growers also consider the dry, hot weather as the new normal. They're, therefore, investing in installing irrigation systems and renewing their groves. But declining governmental support for the sector means many small-scale farmers can't afford this.
Between 30% and 50% of the available Mexican oranges are destined for the processing industry. There they're made into juice. Most of this juice is then exported to the US. After the US, the Netherlands is the most significant buyer. In 2019, the Netherlands bought almost €43 million's worth of orange juice from Mexico. That's 12% of all the exported Mexican orange juice.
Mexico is one of the largest lime producing countries in the world. This product has generally suffered less under the drought. The trees are, on average, younger, and lime farmers have better irrigation systems than orange farmers. The lime harvest is, however, also expected to be nine percent lower than last year. That's due to the crippling drought in the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas, and Tabasco. A third of the limes produced are exported, largely to the US. The Netherlands is again, after the US, the most importer lime buyer.
In Mexico, grapefruit cultivation is lower than even limes and oranges. That, despite the country being one of the three largest global grapefruit producers. The drought has, however, also affected grapefruit production. The total harvest's expected to be 23% lower than last year. In contrast to other citrus fruits, more grapefruits are sent to Japan and Europe than the US. Within Europe, the Netherlands and France are the top buyers.