Yuma lemon producers having good season

YUMA, AZ - Lemon producers in the Yuma area are now having a good season after many years of struggling to compete in a global market.

The Yuma Daily Sun reports that producers in the Yuma area were benefiting from higher lemon prices and favorable growing conditions.

The improving prospects for Yuma's lemon producers come as weather conditions in two of the world's major citrus producing countries led to a global squeeze on the supply of lemons.

Argentina is the fourth-largest lemon producer in the world. Trees in that country's biggest lemon producing region were exposed to extended periods of icy temperatures for several days in late July. Chile, the world's fifth-largest lemon producer, also suffered damage from the cold temperatures.

"We benefited from someone else's catastrophic failure," said Kurt Nolte, executive director of the Yuma County Cooperative Extension.

In recent years the average price of lemons received by Yuma growers has ranged from $18 to $25 a carton, he reported. This year's season started off in August at $55 a carton. This month it is still above the average at $36 a carton.

Citrus has a long history in Yuma County, but the industry has declined significantly over the years due in large part to increasing imports.

Today, the main citrus crop grown in Yuma is lemons, a large contributor to Arizona's ranking as the second-leading producer of the crop in the U.S. There's virtually no commercial citrus production in the rest of the state anymore and the only citrus packing houses still in Arizona are in Yuma County, Nolte said.

Currently, Yuma County has about 9,000 acres planted in lemons.

This year's lemon season is the latest example of the impact of global conditions on various food commodities, Nolte said.

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