Mexican citrus imports set to increase

We all know that one of the five C’s plastered on Arizona’s state seal stands for “citrus.” Drive east down Mesa’s Red Mountain 202 freeway long enough and you can still see rows and rows of well-producing orange trees that attest to that. But while we’re still producing healthy amounts of citrus on our own soil, most of those delicious oranges and limes you see in the stores are imported from Mexico and some from Florida.

In fact, the Mexican citrus export market in general is expected to increase this year, especially after Florida suffered citrus production losses due to last year’s long-drawn-out hurricane season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service put out a report recently detailing the expected expansion of Mexican imports through the end of the 2018-2019 marketing year.

According to the report, which dived into fresh orange and lime production, growers in the northern states of Mexico have stated that fresh fruit exports to the U.S. for processing purposes have increased due to the decrease in Florida orange production.

The increase will feature a 78,000 metric-ton jump this year alone.

Nearly all fresh orange exports go to the U.S., and most oranges exported to the U.S. are oranges grown in Sonora. Produce that makes its way into Arizona comes through the Nogales Port of Entry. It accounts for 33,000 jobs in the state and makes for a big economic impact. Nogales has been serving as the main port of entry in the country for everything from squash to peppers to cucumbers to citrus.

As of late, Mexican produce has been put in the spotlight in other, more political ways, including new legislation out of Florida that may limit Mexican trade practices and protect U.S. produce growers.

“Sonora is the only state significantly exporting oranges to the U.S…a future production and import increase would definitely have a small but positive economic impact on Arizona,” explains Enrique Gracia of Flavor King Farms located in Nogales. “From customs and border patrol and USDA inspection jobs to warehousing, logistics and transportation. Any increase in imports from Mexico through Arizona borders brings a broad positive economic impact to the state.”

Nick Esquer

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