How heavy rains produced unusually large lemons and what it means for your grocery store

One major citrus producer was forced to juice 50% of their yield for 2019.

August 30, 2019, 12:15 PM

When life gives you over-sized lemons, make lots of lemonade.

That's what more consumers in Southern California may have to do after one of the state's largest lemon producers, Limoneira, faced an unusual problem with this year's yield.

PHOTO: Lemons in a basket are seen in this undated image.
Lemons in a basket are seen in this undated image.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

The “excessive rains” last fall and winter were apparently sour news for the Santa Paula-based citrus producer.

The trees produced an abundance of larger lemons that created an oversupply in the market and lessened demand from grocery stores. As a result, carton prices were lower on average and packaging costs per carton increased, Limoneira explained in a press release on Wednesday.

The lemons sold for approximately $18 per carton, well below the company's normal pricing of closer to $30, according to CEO and President Harold Edwards.

PHOTO: A woman juices a lemon in this undated stock image.
A woman juices a lemon in this undated stock image.
Sheri L Giblin/Getty Images

"We had to turn approximately 50% of our fresh lemons into juice," he explained.

"This pressured pricing and resulted in a much higher percentage of fruit that was sold into the lemon juice market," Ben Bienvenu, an analyst at the citrus company's financial planning firm Stephens Inc., told ABC News. It also "created an imbalance between the price received by Limoneira for selling the fruit, and the cost it requires to pack the fruit."

The wholesale price of lemons in the U.S. per kilogram is $1.84, which is down 39% from last year, and the average production price is $784 per metric ton, according to global food market intelligence company Tridge.

Limoneira expects an operating loss for 2019 of approximately $500,000 to $3 million.

PHOTO: The Santa Clara Valley in Ventura County where the walnut orchards have given way to lemons and avocados and what remains of aging Valencia orange groves.
The Santa Clara Valley in Ventura County where the walnut orchards have given way to lemons and avocados and what remains of aging Valencia orange groves.
Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Edwards added that for fiscal 2020, "we are well-positioned for a return to solid growth and improved profitability" based on Limoneira's expected organic lemon growth and recent acquisitions.

The future of Limoneira is ripe for a rebound with an additional 1,200 acres of non-bearing lemons, which should become full bearing over the next four years and enable the company to achieve strong growth in years ahead.

Southern California citrus fans should embrace the over-sized citrus and save the juice for a rainy day.

Despite impact on the company, Limoneira was still able to look on the bright side for National Lemon Juice Day and shared a series of tweets with best use recipes.

Limoneira Co. did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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