In December 2020, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its yearly Mexican “Citrus Annual”. It includes harvest forecasts for the current (2020/2021) season. So, it's a good time to zoom in on Mexican citrus sector developments. This article uses this report and recent figures from the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture's 'Panorama Agroalimentario 2020'. Here are some highlights:
Oranges are Mexico's top citrus fruit. In 2020/2021, it has an expected production of 4.040 tons. The Valencia, Lane Late Navel, and Navelina varieties are grown in Mexico. Harvesting takes place from November to May. Mexico is the world's fifth-largest producer of this fruit. The state of Veracruz accounts for 50% of the total planted area.
Other important producing states are Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Puebla, and Sonora. These should all expected to have higher production than the previous season. Then extreme drought and high temperatures depressed yields. The current season has an improved weather forecast. Given that, harvests are expected to increase by 58% compared to the previous season.
The USDA thinks Mexico's lacking government support for farmers will continue to hamper future growth in the sector. That's despite the improved prognoses. Growers need drought-recovery assistance and help to purchase crop protection products and pesticides. Many orange farmers are in dire financial straits. That's as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That's also prevented them from reviving their orchards. Although the pandemic doesn't seem to have affected production itself much. The Mexican government considered this and most of the agricultural sector essential. Therefore, with the necessary corona measures, work could continue.
Most oranges are sold or processed within Mexico. The fresh orange total export volume is less than 2,5% of total production. The United States is Mexican oranges' most important foreign market. In 2019, 80% of Mexico's total orange exports of $28,5 million were destined for this market.
Most oranges are exported as (frozen) juice. Mexico should export some 195.000 tonnes of frozen juice in the 2020/2021 season. That's compared to only 61 tons of fresh oranges. In both Mexico and the US, the demand for fresh juice is increasing.
At the same time, the demand for frozen orange juice is decreasing. This demand's recovery depends on the hospitality sector's reopening. This sector is currently burdened with COVID-19 restrictions.
The US is, again, the top export market for Mexican frozen orange juice. In 2019, Mexico exported $423 million worth of orange juice. Of this, $333 million (79%) went to the US. The Netherlands was the second-largest market with $56 million.
Lemons and limes
It's thought Mexico will grow about 2,870 tons of lemons and limes. That's in the 2020/2021 season. Of the two, limes are by far the most important. Lime production is more than 20 times that of lemons.
Mexico is, therefore, the world's second-largest lime grower, after India. The most important states for growing limes are Michoacán, Veracruz, Colima, Oaxaca, and Tamaulipas. The main variety is Citrus X Aurantiifolia, also known as Mexican limes.
In 2019, Mexico exported limes valued at $560 million. More than 90% of these went to the US. Again, the Netherlands was the second-largest market with +/- $16 million. The lemon and lime total export value is expected to keep increasing.
Mexico cultivates red, pink, and white grapefruit. Veracruz, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Campeche are the top five cultivation states in terms of production volume. Five percent of grapefruits harvested worldwide are Mexican. That makes Mexico the fourth largest global producer.
Production of 495 tons is expected for the 2020/2021 season. In Mexico, these fruits are mainly eaten or drunk as freshly squeezed juice. Exports of Mexican grapefruit and grapefruit juice in on the rise. Cultivation acreage should, therefore, also increase.
With $4 million, Japan was the top fresh Mexican grapefruit market in 2019. However, Mexico exports less than five percent of this product fresh. About a fifth of this crop is processed into juice, and some of this is exported. In 2019, Mexico exported a total of almost $28 million's worth of grapefruit juice. Here, with $11,6 million, the Netherlands was the most important buyer.
The Netherlands is importing fewer Mexican citrus products
The most important citrus products the Netherlands imports from Mexico are limes and orange juice. Trade statistics show that Dutch imports of products from the Mexican citrus sector have been on a downward spiral since 2017. That applies to oranges, limes, and grapefruit.
In 2020, too, this decline continued. Over that year's first three quarters, the Dutch import value of Mexican limes dropped from €27.1 million (about $32.9 million) to €19.9 million (about $24.2 million). During the same time, Dutch import values for Mexican orange juice also decreased. It went from €38.1 million (about $46.2 million) to €23.3 million (about $28.3 million).
It's not currently clear why this happened. The drought in Mexico and the COVID-19 pandemic probably contributed.
Source: Agroberichten Buitenland