Updated by: Gina Marzolo, graduate student of Agricultural Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,, November 2015.

By Hayley Boriss, formerly of the Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.

citrus fruitsIntroduction

The exact origin of citrus is unknown, however, it is believed that citrus originated from either Australia or Southeast Asia (Beattie, et al, 2010) (Food and Fertilizer Technology Center, n.d.). Today, in the United States, the most important commercial varieties include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and tangerines and to a lesser extent, tangelos. Oranges account for the greatest value in terms of production; followed by grapefruit, lemons and tangerines (NASS, 2015).

The major citrus producing states in the United States include Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Of these four states, Florida produced 56 percent of the total U.S. citrus crop in 2014, California produced 41 percent, and Texas and Arizona combined produced the remaining 3 percent (NASS, 2015).

Florida is the largest producer of oranges, accounting for about 66 percent of total U.S. production, and of grapefruit, producing nearly 62 percent of total production. California is the largest producer of lemons, producing more than 91 percent of production, and of tangerines, accounting for about 88 percent of production (NASS, 2015).

Marketing Channels

The marketing season for citrus varies greatly depending on the type of citrus and where it’s grown. The National Agricultural Statistics Service has a section in their Citrus Fruits 2015 Summary that displays the different marketing seasons for oranges (Navel and Valencia), grapefruit, lemons, tangelos, and tangerines (NASS, 2015).

Over 71 percent of oranges produced in the United States get processed, with the majority being processed into juice, thus adding value. The remaining 29 percent of oranges are sold fresh; and the majority of other citrus are sold fresh as well (NASS, 2015). Some ways to add value when marketing fresh citrus could be selling locally through farmers’ markets, farm stands, restaurants, U-pick operations, community-supported agriculture, and specialty grocery stores (Pennsylvania State University – Extension, 2009).
Selling specialty citrus such as unique varieties [Meyer Lemon, Fingered Citron (also known as Buddha’s Hands), Finger and Kaffir Limes, Cara Cara and Blood Orange, and Pomelo], and organic citrus is another way to add value; this is partly because there are less unique varieties and organic products available on the market (Specialty Produce, 2010 and 2014).

Although the majority of citrus other than oranges are sold fresh, processing citrus is one way to add value. Citrus can be processed into many products, such as pure juice and juice blends, extracts for cooking and baking, vitamins (using citruses natural vitamin C content), prepackaged fruit segments for direct consumption or cooking, spice rubs, cleaning and beauty products, and a lot more.

Demand/Per Capita Consumption

In the United States, per person consumption of oranges is higher than that of any other fruit. Lemons are the second highest citrus fruit consumed per capita, followed by grapefruits, tangerines and limes.

Citrus consumption per person in 2014 totaled 78.6 pounds. Of the total, 23.3 pounds was consumption of fresh citrus and 55.3 pounds was consumption of processed citrus (ERS, 2015).


Fresh orange consumption was 9.4 pounds per capita in 2014. Much of the per person consumption of oranges is attributable to orange juice, which reached 47.2 pounds that year (ERS, 2015).


In 2014, per person consumption of fresh and juiced lemons was 7.1 pounds (ERS, 2015). Most lemons are consumed as a cooking ingredient, a garnish or as juice in lemonade or other carbonated beverages or drinks. Demand for lemons is highest in the summer (ERS, 2004).


Over the past few decades, per person consumption of grapefruit has been declining. Per capita consumption of grapefruit (fresh and juiced) peaked at nearly 24 pounds in 1978; however, by 2014, fresh grapefruit consumption was 2.4 pounds per person and grapefruit juice consumption was 2.7 pounds per person (ERS, 2015).

Part of the decline in grapefruit consumption is attributable to decade-old studies finding that grapefruit consumption intensified the effects of certain medication. Because a large percentage of grapefruit consumers are older and more prone to taking medication, this concern may have affected overall consumption (ERS, 2005).

Tangerine and Lime

The Economic Research Service’s Fruit and Tree Nuts Yearbook only lists the citrus orange, lemon, and grapefruit individually, all other citrus (including tangerines, tangelos, other madarins, and limes) are placed in an “other” category. In 2014, per person consumption of fresh “other” citrus was 8.1 pounds, while consumption of juiced “other” citrus was 1.7 pounds (ERS, 2015).


The total quantity and value of U.S. citrus production is large in comparison to other U.S. fruits produced. Citrus production for the 2014 season totaled 9.02 million tons, down 4 percent from 2013. The value of the 2014citrus crop was nearly $3.38 billion, a 9 percent drop from the previous year (NASS, 2015).


U.S. orange production accounted for about 58 percent of the total citrus crop value in 2014. However, the value of orange production dropped nearly 15 percent from the previous year, totaling $2 billion. The orange crop was also 6 percent smaller than 2013, totaling around 6.4 million tons (NASS, 2015).

Florida is the top producer of oranges. The state's 2014 orange crop fell to 96.8 million boxes, down 8 percent from last season. Over 95% of Florida’s orange production is processed. Florida , orange production translates into juice production, which also declined 8 percent from 2013 to 91.8 million boxes (NASS, 2015).


U.S. grapefruit production declined 20% from 2013 to 2014 having 21 million boxes. 12 million boxes of grapefruit were sold into the fresh market, and 9 million boxes of grapefruit were sold for processing into grapefruit juice. From 2013 to 2014, the value of both fresh grapefruit and grapefruit juice production decreased by nearly 21 percent, totaling about $200.3 million (NASS, 2015).


U.S. lemon production in 2014 totaled 22.5 million boxes, up 9 percent from last season. The crop was valued at more than $4693.5 million, up from nearly $44641.3 million in 2013, and $400.3 million in 20121. California is the leading producer of lemons. Its 20142 crop increased 9 percent from last season to 20.50 million boxes (NASS, 2015).


U.S. production of tangerines was nearly 20.6 million boxes in 2014, a 16 percent increase from last season. The tangerine crop was valued at more than $4513.9 million, an 8 percent decrease from 2013. California continues to lead the nation in production, with its 2014 crop reaching 18.2 million boxes, up from 14.7 million boxes in 2013 (NASS, 2015).


Historically, in the United States, production of limes occurred entirely in Florida; this is  because lime production is best suited for tropical climates. Florida’s commercial lime production was always smaller compared to other commercial citrus production; and unfortunately that factor in combination with hurricanes contributed to Florida no longer having a commercial lime industry (Plattner, ERS, 2014).

Global Production

Brazil leads the world in fresh orange production, followed by China, and the United States. Brazil also leads the world in processed orange production, followed by the United States. China leads the world in grapefruit production, followed by the United States. China is also the largest producer of tangerines, followed by the European Union. Mexico is the largest producer of lemons and limes, followed by the European Union, and Argentina (FAS, 2015).


Grower prices for most citrus products have been variable over the last two decades. Prices for processed citrus are generally much lower than those of fresh citrus.
Lemons typically receive the highest price per box and grapefruit the lowest. In 2014, lemons averaged $30.83 per box, tangerines averaged $24.82 per box while grapefruit were the lowest priced, averaging $9.54 per box (NASS, 2015).

The price of fresh oranges has shown strong variation. The average price for the last few years has ranged from $14.61 per box to $22.35 per box. The average price for all U.S. oranges was $19.23 per box in 2014. California oranges averaged $15.84 per box, and Florida oranges averaged $12.06 per box that year (NASS, 2015).



For the market year of 2014-2015, exports of fresh oranges were valued at more than $559.2 million. South Korea was the top export market for U.S. fresh oranges, followed by Canada and Japan.
The value of orange juice exports in 2014 – 2015 was more than $335.2 million. The largest export market was Canada, followed by Belgium and South Korea (ERS, 2015).


Fresh grapefruit exports in 2014-2015 totaled about $121.7 million. Japan was the leading export market for grapefruit, followed by Canada and France.  
The value of grapefruit juice exports in 2014 – 2015 was  more than $31.8 million. Japan and the Netherlands are the largest buyers of U.S. grapefruit juice, followed by Canada (ERS, 2015).


Fresh lemon exports in 2014-2015 were valued at more than $213.6 million. Japan was the biggest export market for U.S. fresh lemons, followed by Canada and South Korea The value of lemon juice exports in 2014-2015 was $29 million. Canada was the largest buyer of U.S. lemon juice (buying 77 percent of the total exported), followed by Japan and South Korea (ERS, 2015).


Fresh tangerine exports in 2014-2015 were valued at more than $25.8 million. Japan and Canada are the biggest export markets for U.S. tangerines, followed by the Netherlands (ERS, 2015).



Fresh orange imports in the 2014-2015 market year were valued at more than $103.34 million. The imports originated mainly in Chile and South Africa. .  (FAS 2012)
The value of orange juice imports in 2014-2015 totaled more than $582.2 million. Brazil and Mexico were the largest suppliers of orange juice, followed by Costa Rica (ERS, 2015).


Fresh grapefruit imports to the United States in 2014-2015 were valued at $5.2 million. Mexico and South Africa were the top suppliers of fresh grapefruit. Mexico was also the leading source of imported grapefruit juice in 2014-2015. Total grapefruit juice imports totaled $550,000 (ERS, 2015).


The value of the fresh lemons imported in 2014-2015 reached $74.1 million, a whopping 90 percent increase from the previous year. Chile was the largest supplier of fresh lemons, followed by Mexico. The value of lemon juice imports in 2014-2015 totaled $126.2 million, a 65 percent increase from the previous year. Argentina and Mexico were the largest suppliers of lemon juice, followed by Italy (ERS, 2015).


Fresh tangerine imports in 2014-2015 were valued at $3.5 million. Peru was the largest supplier of fresh tangerines, followed by Mexico (ERS, 2015).


The U.S. demand for limes is satisfied solely by imports, primarily from Mexico. Limes valued at around $308.5 million were imported in 2014-2015, almost a 20 percent increase from 2013-2014.  (ERS, 2015).

Current Issues/Management

The citrus industry in Florida has been struggling with the serious disease Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening. This bacterial disease causes green, misshapen and bitter-tasting fruit, and eventually kills the citrus tree. Major research on HLB is ongoing, and grower practices to manage HLB have made significant progress, increasing the likelihood that Florida may be able to maintain its citrus production at a viable level. For more information on HLB, see the HLB/Citrus Greening Disease Information section of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.

HLB has also devastated acres of citrus crops in other parts of the United States and abroad. In addition to Florida, the entire state of Georgia as well as portions of California, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas are under quarantine for HLB. The U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also under HLB quarantines.

In response, the USDA has created a new Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group, or emergency response group, to address HLB. The HLB MAC Group brings together USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), along with state departments of agriculture and the citrus industry. More information about HLB and the HLB MAC Group is available on USDA's Multi-Agency Response to Devastating Citrus Disease website.

Citrus canker is another problem for commercial and residential citrus trees in Florida and poses a threat to all U.S. citrus growers. A devastating bacterial disease dispersed by wind, rain or contaminated equipment, citrus canker results in premature leaf and fruit drop and a decline in citrus tree health and production of fruit. In addition, lesions on the fruit make it unattractive. Although federal foreign quarantines are in place to protect against entrance of citrus canker at borders, hurricane winds introduced it to Florida in 1986, 1995 and 1997. In 2006 USDA announced it would no longer fund the citrus tree removal program in Florida because it no longer considers it possible to eradicate citrus canker in Florida by removal of trees. For more information on citrus canker, see the Citrus Canker Information section of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.


Helpful enterprise budgets for citrus:


Beattie, et al, 2010. Australia and Huanglongbing.

Citrus 101, Specialty Produce, 2010.

Citrus Canker Information, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, n.d.

Background Statistics: Citrus Market, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Citrus Fruits, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), USDA, 2015.

Citrus Production in Asia, Food and Fertilizer Technology Center, n.d.

Citrus: World Markets and Trade, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA, 2015.

Fruit and Tree Nut Data - Exports/Imports, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2015.

Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-Scale and Part-Time Growers, Pennsylvania State University – Extension, 2009.Citrus: World Markets and Trade

General – A Tables: Fruit and Tree Nut Per Capita, U.S., 1976 to date (2014), Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2015.

HLB/Citrus Greening Disease Information, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, n.d.

Lemon Production and Consumption, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2004.

Multi-Agency Response to Devastating Citrus Disease, USDA, 2014.

Plattner, K., Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: Economic Insight/Fresh Market Limes, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2014.

U.S. Leads World in Grapefruit Production, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2005.

What’s Hot in the Cooler – Citrus, Specialty Produce, 2014.

(Click here for the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture – Organic Survey)

Links checked November 2015.