By Hayley Boriss, formerly of the Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.
Revised October 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.
Citrus, which originated in Southeast Asia, is characterized by fragrant flowers and edible juicy fruit. Today, the most important commercial varieties include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tangerines and to a lesser extent, tangelos and temples. Oranges account for the greatest value in terms of production, followed by grapefruit, lemons and tangerines.
The major citrus producing states in the United States include Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Of these four states, Florida produced 63 percent of the total U.S. citrus crop in 2012, California produced 34 percent, and Texas and Arizona combined produced the remaining 3 percent. (NASS 2013)
Florida is the largest producer of oranges, accounting for about 70 percent of total U.S. production, and of grapefruit, producing nearly 65 percent of total production. California is the largest producer of lemons, producing more than 92 percent of production, and of tangerines, accounting for about 80 percent of production. (NASS 2013)
In the United States, per person consumption of oranges is higher than that of any other fruit. Grapefruits are the second highest citrus fruit consumed per capita, followed by lemons, tangerines and limes.
Citrus consumption per person in 2011 totaled 76.3 pounds. Of the total, 23.1 pounds was consumption of fresh citrus and 53.2 pounds was consumption of processed citrus. (ERS)
Fresh orange consumption was 10.0 pounds per capita in 2011. Much of the per person consumption of oranges is attributable to orange juice, which reached 52.2 pounds that year. (ERS)
Per person consumption of grapefruit has weakened in recent years. Per capita consumption of grapefruit peaked at nearly 24 pounds in 1976 and 1977. By 2011, fresh grapefruit consumption was 2.7 pounds per person and grapefruit juice consumption was another 3.5 pounds per person (ERS). 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).
In 2011, per person consumption of fresh lemons was 3.5 pounds (ERS). Most lemons are consumed as a cooking ingredient, a garnish or as juice in lemonade or other carbonated beverages or drinks (ERS 2004). Demand for lemons is highest in the summer.
Per person consumption of tangerines has experienced periods of highs and lows over the last few decades. Consumption peaked in 1979 at 4.9 pounds and reached a low of 2.3 pounds in 1990. Since 1990, however, consumption of fresh tangerines has increased, reaching 4.1 pounds in 2011. The easy-to-peel skin of the tangerine and easy-to-separate sections has helped to increase the popularity of this citrus fruit.
Per person consumption of fresh limes increased from nearly 1 pound per person in 1989 to 2.6 pounds in 2011. Because the Florida-based U.S. lime industry no longer exists, imports account for 100 percent of lime consumption.
The total quantity and value of U.S. citrus production is large in comparison to other U.S. fruits produced. Citrus production for the 2012 season totaled 11.2 million tons, down 4 percent from 2011. The value of the 2012 citrus crop was nearly $3.2 billion, a 15 percent drop from the previous year. (NASS 2013)
U.S. orange production accounted for about 65 percent of the total citrus crop value in 2012. However, the value of orange production dropped from the previous year, totaling about $2.1 billion. The orange crop was also smaller than 2011, totaling around 8.3 million tons. (NASS 2013)
Florida is the top producer of oranges. The state's 2012 orange crop fell to 133.6 million boxes, down 9 percent from last season. Because most of Florida’s orange production is intended for processing, orange production translates into increased juice production, which declined from 2011 to 127.6 million gallons. (NASS 2013)
U.S. grapefruit production rose in 2012, reaching nearly 28.5 million boxes. With an adequate harvest, both fresh grapefruit and grapefruit juice production increased in 2012. Nearly 14.8 million boxes of grapefruit were sold into the fresh market, and nearly 13.7 boxes of grapefruit were sold for processing into grapefruit juice. The value of both fresh grapefruit and grapefruit juice production decreased from 2011, together totaling about $243.5 million. (NASS 2013)
U.S. lemon production in 2012 totaled 22.8 million boxes, up from last season. The crop was valued at more than $405.2 million, down from nearly $448.7 million in 2011. California is the leading producer of lemons. Its 2012 crop increased from last season to 21.0 million boxes, which were valued at $374.9 million, down from the previous year. (NASS 2013)
U.S. production of tangerines increased to nearly 16.5 million boxes in 2012. The tangerine crop was valued at more than $425.5 million, also an increase from 2011. California continues to lead the nation in production, with its 2012 crop reaching 13.0 million boxes, up from 10.8 million boxes in 2011. (NASS 2013)
Historically, production of limes occurred entirely in Florida because lime production is best suited for tropical climates. However, the United States no longer has a commercial lime industry, due to citrus canker in combination with hurricanes.
Brazil leads the world in 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-27. Mexico is the largest producer of lemons and limes, followed by Argentina and the European Union-27. (FAS 2013)
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 2012, however, tangerines averaged $25.51 per box while lemons averaged $17.77 per box. Grapefruit were the lowest priced, averaging $8.57 per box. (NASS 2013)
The price of fresh oranges has shown strong variation. The average price for the last few years has ranged from $8.42 per box to $13.38 per box. The average price for all U.S. oranges was $10.67 per box in 2012. California oranges averaged $13.13 per box, and Florida oranges averaged $9.73 per box that year. (NASS 2013)
The marketing season for most citrus fruits begins in fall, as early as August for lemons, and lasts through spring until as late as July for Texas and Arizona grapefruits and for California lemons. Arizona and California have year-round production through the use of multiple varieties including navel and Valencia oranges. (NASS)
While aggregated national statistics suggest that most oranges are processed and most grapefruits, lemons and tangerines are sold fresh, the share varies by state. Texas producers have made attempts to differentiate their grapefruit production from Florida’s with patented alternative varieties including Ruby Sweet and Red Star. (ERS 2005)
Most citrus products have been marketed as a good source of vitamin C. Some citrus industry promotions and marketing programs are supported under the federal Market Access Program, helping U.S. exporters to expand global markets for U.S. citrus in other countries including Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Asia (FAS 2005).
In 2012, total U.S. citrus exports were valued at $1.0 billion, a 2 percent decrease from 2011. In terms of value, fresh oranges and orange juice were the major U.S. citrus export items, followed by fresh grapefruit, lemons and grapefruit juice. The top three overseas markets for U.S. citrus were Japan, South Korea and Canada. (FAS 2012)
Exports of fresh oranges were valued at more than $659.3 million, increasing 2 percent from 2011. South Korea became the top export market for U.S. fresh oranges, followed by Canada and Japan. (FAS 2012)
The value of orange juice exports in 2012 was nearly $450.1 million, dropping 17 percent from the previous year. The largest export market continued to be Canada, followed by Belgium and South Korea. (FAS 2012)
Fresh grapefruit exports in 2012 were down 11 percent from 2011, totaling about $158.6 million. Japan remained the leading export market for grapefruit, followed by Canada. (FAS 2012)
The value of grapefruit juice exports also dropped in 2012, falling 15 percent to around $54.1 million. Japan became the largest buyer of U.S. grapefruit juice, followed by the Netherlands and Canada. (FAS 2012)
Fresh lemon exports in 2012 were valued at more than $125.2 million, rising 9 percent from the previous year. Japan remained the biggest export market for U.S. fresh lemons, followed by Canada and South Korea. (FAS 2012)
The United States imported more than $2.3 billion worth of citrus fruit and products in 2012, up 9 percent from 2011. Processed citrus fruit was the largest category of imported citrus, valued at more than $1.4 billion and accounting for about 62 percent of imports. Imports typically peak in the summer months of July through September. (FAS 2012)
Fresh orange imports in 2012 were valued at nearly $107.4 million, an 11 percent increase from 2011. The imports originated mainly in Chile and South Africa. (FAS 2012)
The value of orange juice imports continued to fall during 2012, totaling nearly $466.5 million. Brazil and Mexico remained the largest suppliers of orange juice, followed by Costa Rica. (FAS 2012)
Fresh grapefruit imports to the United States dropped 44 percent in 2012, falling to about $1.0 million. Israel and Mexico were the top suppliers of fresh grapefruit. Mexico was also the leading source of imported grapefruit juice in 2012. Total grapefruit juice imports jumped 55 percent, reaching nearly $1.0 million. (FAS 2012)
The value of the fresh lemons imported in 2012 reached nearly $36.3 million, a 3 percent rise from 2011. Mexico continued to be the largest supplier of fresh lemons, followed by Chile. (FAS 2012)
The U.S. demand for limes is satisfied solely by imports, primarily from Mexico. Limes valued at around $183.0 million were imported in 2012, a 9 percent drop from 2011. (FAS 2012)
The citrus industry in Florida has been struggling with the citrus disease Huanglongbing (HLB) or greening. This disease eventually kills citrus trees and has the potential to devastate the Florida citrus industry. 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.
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.
U.S. orange production is forecast down slightly to 8.0 million tons in 2013; projected droppage in Florida is the highest since the 1969 season. Production in California is up slightly, where most of the oranges are used for fresh consumption. Due to the uncertainty of the outcome of the mid-January cold weather in California, this forecast assumes no impact on production. U.S. exports are forecast down also due to reduced production in California and Texas. (FAS 2013)
Background Statistics: Citrus Market, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
Citrus Fruits, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), USDA.
Citrus: World Markets and Trade, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA.
Economic & Market Research, Florida Department of Citrus grower.
Food Consumption (per capita) Data System, ERS, USDA.
Fruit and Tree Nut Yearbook, ERS, USDA.
Global Ag Trade System, FAS, USDA.
Lemon Production and Consumption, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2004.
Oranges: The Most Consumed Fruit in America, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2002.
Statistical Database, Agriculture, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), United Nations.
Tangerines: The Easy-Peel Citrus, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2003.
U.S. Leads World in Grapefruit Production, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2005.
Developed February 2006 and updated October 2013.