The latest data from USDA’s Economic Research Service’s “Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook” provides a snapshot of production and prices, with tree nuts producing record-high supplies in 2020/21 and a spike in orange juice sales as COVID-19 hit the U.S. Here are some highlights:
The 2020/21 season for almonds. According to the 2020 California Almond Objective Measurement Report released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) on July 7, another record-setting 3-billion-pound crop (shelled basis) is forecast for the 2020/21 season, up 18% from 2019/20. Bearing acreage rose to 1.26 million acres in 2020. California experienced good growing conditions with dry, hot weather in May and June in the final stages of production. The forecast larger crop, and high stocks carried over from last season, are expected to increase supplies in the domestic market and likely will put downward pressure on 2020/21 grower prices.
Walnut production in 2020/21: In the 2019/20 (September to August) season, lower production and higher imports led to increased domestic consumption and reduced ending stocks. Tariffs in China, COVID-19 port issues, and lower U.S. supplies, reduced U.S. walnut exports from the previous season. The 2020 California Walnut Objective Measurement Report, released by NASS on August 28, forecast walnut production for the 2020/21 season at a record 1.56 billion pounds (or 780,000 tons), in-shell basis, up 19% from last year. This forecast is based on 380,000 bearing acres, up 4 %, and average nut per tree of 1,197, up 22 % from last year.
Hazelnut production soars in 2020/21: Oregon’s 2020 hazelnut crop is forecast to be 61% larger than the 2019 crop which was an “off-year” cycle in the alternate bearing tendency of hazelnut trees. A smaller crop, low carryover stocks in 2019/20 (July-June) and smaller imports in 2019/20 put upward pressure on grower prices this season. The large 2020/21 season crop could put downward pressure on grower prices.
Low U.S. pistachio exports in 2019/20: In the 2019/20 season (September-August) U.S. production dropped 27% due to lower yields in an off-year. U.S. exports dropped 33% with large decreases to key markets Hong Kong, India, and Turkey through July, compared to a year ago. High tariffs affected U.S. exports prior to COVID-19 port closures. Iran and the United States are the top suppliers of pistachios. Iran’s exports are expected to increase while U.S. supplies are down. High beginning stocks and low exports likely put downward pressure on grower prices.
Lower U.S. pecan consumption in 2019/20: Domestic pecan production was up 11% in 2019/20 (October-September) and in-shell pecans in storage also went up. Imports were down from top U.S. supplier Mexico after a record setting year in 2018/19. High year-to-date exports to China, Thailand, and South Korea likely decreased U.S consumption and drove up 2019/20 grower prices from the previous season. The rise in prices in 2019/20 drove the crop value to $471 million, up 12% from the previous season. NASS will release the initial U.S. pecan production forecast for the 2020/21 season in its October 2020 Crop Production report.
Total U.S. Citrus Production is Down but Fresh Production is Up in 2019/20. NASS final estimates for the 2019/20 citrus season show U.S. citrus production reached 7.8 million tons, down 4% from 2018/19. Total production is below levels forecast at the outset of the season, mostly due to a lower than anticipated orange crop in Florida. As most Florida oranges are for processing into juice, this decrease resulted in lower overall citrus production for the processing market. A larger share of total production went to the fresh market, therefore fresh market citrus is up this season.
Total citrus volume in 2019/20 was slightly higher than the 2016/17 volume. Total citrus production in Florida decreased to 3.3 million tons in 2019/20, down 5% from the previous season. Texas growers also experienced declines in production reaching a 5-year low of 232,950 tons (down 3 % from last year). In California, increases in production of oranges and lemons for the fresh market were offset by decreases in grapefruit and tangerine production, resulting in production levels 2% below last season (4.19 million tons). Arizona experienced a significant increase in lemon production this year (33%).
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U.S. citrus fresh-market crop larger in 2019/20: U.S. citrus production for the fresh market was estimated at 3.7 million tons in 2019/20, up 5% from the previous season, with larger fresh-market crops of oranges (up 10%), grapefruit (up 5%), and lemons (up 3%). Representing just under half of all U.S. citrus production, the fresh-market orange crop increased from the previous season to 1.88 million tons, thanks to larger fresh market crops in California and Florida. Overall, the average equivalent-on-tree price for a box of fresh oranges increased from $15.09 in 2018/19 to $17.08 in 2019/20, mostly due to higher prices in the months of May, June, and July. These higher prices may suggest an increase in demand for fresh oranges this season, as per capita availability is up 9% from 2018/19. Whether this increase in prices over last year correspond to a temporary spike in demand or a new trend in the market, remains to be seen. U.S. imports of fresh oranges in 2019/20 (November through July) were down 1% from the same period last year, while fresh orange exports increased 8% to date. South Korea remained the top market for U.S. fresh oranges, followed by Canada and Hong Kong.
Orange juice sales spiked. Retail sales of orange juice in the United States reached the highest level in five years as a result of increased purchases during the months of February through May 2020 (fig. 6). This increase in retail sales is attributed to consumer health concerns heightened by COVID-19, and the common perception that orange juice has immune-enhancing properties. Orange juice sales peaked at 44.02 million gallons during the four-week period ending on April 11th and have since remained above 2017-2019 levels. As of May 2020, this spike in retail sales had no obvious effect on equivalent on-tree-prices, which were down by 7% from the same period last season (November through May).
U.S. lemon crop in 2019/20 largest in decades: U.S. growers produced 1.1 million tons of lemons in 2019/20 the largest lemon crop in 39 years. More than two-thirds of lemons (760,000 tons) went to the fresh market, a 3 percent increase in quantity over 2018/19. Higher yields in both California and Arizona were likely due to favorable weather. Perhaps in response to the larger crop, fresh lemon imports to the U.S. this season (August through July 2019/20) were down by 22.4 million pounds (7 percent) from last season. Mexico, Chile, and Argentina remain the main suppliers of lemons to the U.S. market, and together they supply 96% of lemon imports into the United States. Additionally, U.S. fresh lemon exports this season lagged 3% behind 2018/19, continuing what is now a five-year trend in declining lemon exports. Lower export volumes alongside higher domestic production increased the total supply of fresh market lemons in the United States, with per capita consumption increasing by 2% in 2019/20. A greater supply of fresh lemons in the U.S. this season resulted in lower grower prices, as the average equivalent-on-tree price per box fell from $24.91 in 2018/19 to $20.55 (17%) in 2019/20.
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