US (CA): Late season for organic lemons
A host of factors has caused the organic lemon season to be late and to have tight supplies.
Despite setbacks this season, however, growers anticipate steadily growing demand for their organic fruit.
Though the season has been good overall, notes John Stair, Domestic Commodity Manager for Pacific Organic Produce, he admits that a freeze last winter has affected their supplies of organic lemons.
“We had a freeze in our desert growing-area last winter,” he says, “and that brought our volume from that region down by about 40 percent compared to last year.”
Ryan San Jose, National Sales Manager for Rainbow Valley Orchards, has also noticed a short supply – something which he attributes to the late season they've experienced.
“The second half of the season has been slow to mature,” he says, “and lemons have been about three to four weeks behind.”
He notes that the weather has not been conducive to growing, and that has affected volume and sizing.
“It's been a bad season in the sense that everything has been late,” he says. “The rain has been late, growing has been late, maturing of fruit has been late, and this affects everything. With organic, especially, we need a very good weather pattern, and we haven't had that.”
With tight supplies, prices should be strong, but San Jose points out that that's not necessarily the case for all fruit.
“Because the fruit has been slow to mature, what's been harvested right now has been small,” he explains, “for that reason, we've pulled back and are allowing the fruit to mature. But if we were to sell the small fruit, we'd have to price it competitively because small sizes aren't really desired.”
Despite this season's setbacks, he believes organic fruit is definitely on the rise based on how many more sales companies and growers are now offering organic lemons.
John Stair agrees and says he has also seen growing demand for organic fruit.
“Growth in demand fluctuates,” he says, “but generally, we've seen between a five and ten percent rise in demand every year.”
He believes the steady growth is due to consumers turning to organic as they consider it an environmentally-conscious option.
He notes that Pacific Organic will have more organic acreage next year as they convert conventional groves to grow certified-organic lemons.
“It's a three-year process to get it certified as organic,” he says, “but in the upcoming marketing year, it will be, and we'll increase our organic acreage significantly, by about 20 to 25 percent.”