Higher fruit prices seem likely from smaller 2001 harvests

Grower prices for many fruit crops averaged higher than a year ago this summer due to decreased production.

Included here by the USDA's Economic Research Service are grapes, peaches, strawberries, fresh oranges, and fresh grapefruit.

Reduced acreage on some crops and weather-related problems, including hailstorms, freezing temperatures, and below-average rainfall, all contributed to lower production in 2001.

The grower price index for fruit and nuts in July and August 2001 averaged 12 percent above the July-August 2000 index. Grower prices are likely to remain above a year ago through most of the second half of the year as the anticipated smaller crops of apples and pears this fall could lead to higher prices. Meanwhile, grower prices for most tree nuts will likely average lower in 2001/02 as larger yields are expected for most of the major crops.

Consumer prices

Decreased supplies mean consumers will pay higher prices for most fresh fruit throughout the second half of 2001. Higher retail prices for grapefruit, lemons, bananas, peaches, strawberries, and Thompson seedless grapes boosted the consumer price index for fresh fruit in July 2001 compared with a year ago.

Following the trend in grower prices, higher retail prices are expected for apples and pears during the fall.

The 2001 U.S. apple crop is forecast to be down 10 percent from a year ago and the smallest crop since 1988. Production is down in both the western and eastern regions, offsetting increased production in the central region. Due to the smaller crop, apple prices in 2001/02 will likely average higher than in 2000/01.

Grape production

U.S. grape production for 2001 is forecast to decline 15 percent from last year's record-high crop of 15.3 billion pounds. Although smaller, this year's grape crop, if realized, will be 11 percent and 4 percent larger than in 1998 and 1999.

California's grape production is expected to decline 16 percent, and output is expected lower in most other grape-producing states.

Reduced production and less competition from smaller crops of stone fruit and citrus point to higher grape prices this summer. A combination of lower production and higher prices will likely decrease domestic consumption of fresh grapes by 4 percent from the 7.5 pounds per person estimated in 2000. Meanwhile, the good quality of this year's crop and continued strong international demand has kept U.S. exports of fresh grapes higher thus far this season.

U.S. pear production for 2001 is forecast down 5 percent from 2000. The size of the Bartlett crop is 9 percent smaller, and the combined production of other U.S. pear varieties is forecast down 1 percent. The overall decline in production this year, combined with the depletion of carry-in stocks, will help boost grower prices during the 2001/02 marketing season.

Harvest of stone fruit crops is expected smaller in 2001 than a year ago, except for sweet and tart cherries.

Peaches account for a large proportion of total stone fruit production in the United States. Partly due to reduced supplies, grower and retail prices for fresh peaches have held strong. These higher prices, along with reduced supplies, will likely keep domestic consumption of fresh peaches (including nectarines) in 2001 below last year's 5.6 pounds per person.

Reduced supplies of apricots and California plums are also expected to lead to higher prices and decreased domestic consumption in 2001.

Commercial strawberry production in five major producing states is forecast down 8 percent from a year ago. Production is expected lower in the major producing states except New Jersey. The smaller crop has kept monthly grower prices for fresh-market strawberries higher than last year. Decreased supplies and higher prices will likely limit this year's prospects for U.S. fresh strawberry exports and lead to a decline in domestic fresh strawberry consumption from the 2000 estimate of 4.80 pounds per person.

The 2000/01 citrus crop is projected to be 6 percent smaller than the previous season, with reduced-sized crops for all citrus fruit except lemons. Despite the smaller crop, sluggish demand brought lower prices to growers for grapefruit, processing oranges, and lemons.

Drought conditions in Florida, the major citrus-producing state, reduced its citrus production 6 percent.

The size of California's citrus crop fell 9 percent due to lighter fruit set on orange and grapefruit trees than last season. Arizona's citrus crop fell marginally while in Texas the citrus crop was larger.

The 2000/01 U.S. orange crop is expected to decrease 5 percent from the previous year, but is the fourth largest on record.

Production declined in all states, except Texas. The good quality and large size of this season's fresh oranges from California helped drive up exports 21 percent from last season. As a result of the smaller crop and higher exports, consumption of fresh oranges this season is projected to decline to 1.5 million tons, 14 percent below last season and the second lowest in 10 years.

The U.S. grapefruit crop is forecast to decline 10 percent in 2000/01 from a year earlier, the lowest quantity since 1991/92.

The smaller crop is largely attributed to fewer trees and small fruit in Florida, and light fruit set in California. Florida's crop fell 14 percent from last season and accounted for 79 percent of this year's total production, a smaller share than in past seasons.

‘On year’ for nuts

The total tree nut crop is expected to increase in 2001 after declining 15 percent in 2000 from the previous year. Indications for a larger crop are based on the alternate bearing nature of nut trees. This year should be an ‘on year’ for most of the major crops, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts.

Only the pistachio trees will be on an ‘off cycle.’ Accounting for more than half of the total tree nut output, the California Agricultural Statistics Service forecast almond production to be at a record high in 2001, up 21 percent from a year ago. Although grower prices are expected to decline as a result of the expected large crops, grower revenues should be higher this year as increases in production will more than likely offset the declines in prices.

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