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Mexico Orange Production Continues to Recover from 2019/20 Drought

28.01.2022 16:21 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) According to the report of the USDA Citrus: World Markets and Trade (January 2022), Mexico orange production is forecast at 4.3 million tons, up 3 percent from the previous year due to a return to normal weather conditions in Veracruz. The 2019/20 drought affected orange production more than other citrus, as many orange trees are old and require more energy to produce fruit.

Mexico produces three main orange varieties: Valencia, which is favorable for juice production; Lane Late, which is mainly consumed fresh; and Navelina, which is consumed fresh and is also used for juice production. Oranges are harvested mainly from November to May.

Oranges are the most prevalent citrus fruit planted in Mexico, with the state of Veracruz accounting for nearly half of the total harvested area. Its high elevation, nutrient‐rich soil, and high humidity make it ideal for citrus production. Other significant producer states include Nuevo León, Puebla, Sonora, and Tamaulipas. Additionally, many small producers lack irrigation technology and have poor crop management practices, exacerbating production challenges. Producers, many of whom are small‐scale (3 hectares or less), have little liquidity or government assistance to invest in tree maintenance activities such as leaf removal and fertilization, both necessary to maintain soil health for optimal production. In Veracruz, only 3 percent of orange planted area, typically owned by large juice production businesses, utilizes sophisticated irrigation technologies and regular fertilizer application. Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Yucatán have the most significant area planted with irrigation technology.

The COVID‐19 pandemic has had little effect on citrus production throughout the country, as the agricultural sector was deemed essential by the federal government. Producers have adopted a number of precautions and safety measures in the field, such as distance restrictions between workers while harvesting and additional shifts at packing plants to enhance social distancing. Consistent supply chains have allowed for ample supplies and stable prices for consumers.

Mexico continues to face challenges with citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB). Caused by bacteria introduced by psyllids, the disease makes citrus trees produce misshapen, partially green fruit. Taste can also be affected, and the fruit is not marketable for fresh consumption. Trees infected with HLB will eventually succumb to the disease and die within a few years. Mexicos first detection was in 2009, and since then, the National Service of Agricultural Food Safety and Quality (SENASICA) has implemented a monitoring program for the disease. HLB has been detected in citrus production areas including the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, and Nuevo Leon. In 2019, Baja California had HLB positive detections along the California/Mexico border region. HLB is present in all Florida counties with commercial citrus groves and has also been found in California and Texas.

Oranges are the primary sweet citrus fruit consumed in Mexico and are mainly used for fresh‐squeezed juice found in grocery stores and street‐side juice stands. Fresh orange availability in the domestic market depends greatly on the volume of oranges sent for processing, as producers usually find higher returns selling to juice processors.

Exports are forecast at 75,000 tons, due to strong U.S. demand for fresh consumption. Most of the oranges shipped to the United States are navel oranges grown in Sonora. Imports are forecast at 34,000 tons, exclusively from the United States, and primarily for fresh consumption in the border region.

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