Rabobank research:

US: Easy-peel citrus supply to push marketers

The continued success of mandarin or "easy-peel" oranges in the U.S. has been at the expense of demand for conventional orange varieties. Consumers continue to favor the size, seedlessness, flavor, and easy-peel characteristics of mandarins. The increase in mandarin demand has made them currently the most profitable choice for citrus growers, however ongoing supply and demand forces will likely narrow the profitability gap between mandarins and conventional oranges, and mandarins and lemons in the coming years. These forces and their impacts on the U.S. citrus complex are examined in Rabobank's most recent Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory note titled "U.S. Citrus -- How Does Easy-Peel Change the Game?"

With global demand for mandarins rising, conventional orange suppliers are recognizing the need to make production adjustments to adapt to the current developments in the citrus market. Roland Fumasi, Senior Analyst with Rabobank and the report's author says that orange suppliers are employing innovative strategies to tighten the current gap in profitability. "While citrus greening has continued to hamper supply in certain production areas, most of the overall supply pressures have been felt in oranges. New plantings of mandarins, to meet rapidly growing demand, are continuing," said Fumasi. "Already, California bearing acreages of mandarins has increased by 250 percent in the past decade. During the same period, California's bearing acreage of navels, Valencias, and lemons has fallen by 4, 32, and 4 percent, respectively." The research outlines the continued need for mandarin marketers to drive domestic demand and establish a branded presence in export markets, while at the same time, highlighting the tactical plans needed to be taken by navel suppliers.

Navel orange suppliers must continue to focus on improving the eating experience for both domestic and export market growth. "The value of California fresh-market navel orange exports has been growing over the past decade, from USD 324 million in 2004 to USD 521 million last season," added Fumasi. "In addition to growing and shipping more of the popular Cara Cara navels and blood oranges, leading suppliers are intensifying efforts to identify traditional navel groves, which tend to produce sweeter fruit." Evident in the report is the observation that mandarin production and consumption is continuing to climb, and navel suppliers have to continue to be innovative in their efforts to support higher prices. The report also stresses the details that must be considered by the lemon value-chain, so that the supply response to recent high prices is not overdone.

The report concludes by highlighting the fact that the continued profitability dominance of mandarins depends squarely on the efforts of a highly concentrated mandarin industry. Based on imminent increases in mandarin supply, rising global demand for lemons, renewed focus of the navel value-chain, and other supply and demand forces detailed in the report, long-run grower profitability will find more balance between citrus categories.

For more information:
Jessup Wiley
Rabobank, N.A.
Email: Jessup.Wiley@rabobank.com

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