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California grapefruit production down this season

The rains in California have subsided and are making way for nice spring weather. It signifies the start of grapefruit harvest out of California's southern growing region Riverside County. This season, growing conditions have created a lighter crop for the Southern California industry. "Experts in the field are projecting a production decrease of 35 to 40 percent compared to last year," says Jose Fu with Corona College Heights (CCH) Citrus. Harvest is just now getting started and grapefruit from Southern California will be available through September or October. Expectations for quality, both internally and externally, are good.

In California's Central Valley, harvest started as early as March and production levels in that region are down about 14 percent. This part of the state is now moving into harvesting the most popular variety, Star Ruby. This is also the main variety in southern California. This variety's flesh has a deep red color and the juice tastes less bitter compared to other varieties.

Harvest in Riverside County.

Consumption has a beat
Starting in June, domestic supplies will be complemented with imports from different countries, including South Africa. "While consumption of grapefruit is steady, it's not a mandarin category that has shown high growth numbers over the years," commented Fu. In fact, grapefruit consumption used to show a declining trend, but in recent years, a small increase has been witnessed. Since last year, grapefruit has been included in the USDA's nutritional value program for schools, food banks, etc. This has helped with the movement of fruit and right now, the USDA is solidifying their grapefruit program for the upcoming season. In addition, steady consumption levels could also be attributed to retail, the main outlet for U.S. grapefruit. "All in all, grapefruit consumption has a positive beat."

Does a lower production volume influence pricing? "A reduced supply could increase pricing, but demand is very fragile," Fu said. "As a result, demand is not as inelastic as demand for some other fruit items." Grapefruit is faced with competition from other fruit categories and a price increase could result in grapefruit being substituted by other fruit.

Grapefruit at the packing house and at retail.

For more information:
Jose Fu
CCH Citrus
[email protected]