Market Outlook

ERS provides market outlook activities on the U.S. fruit and tree nuts industry. Details on major changes and events in the various commodity markets comprising this industry are published in the Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook

The following interactive content is based on:

Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: March 2018

Production declines continue for major citrus crops in 2017/18, large crops harvested for major tree nuts

Production is forecast to decline for several major fruit crops in 2017/18, which will likely support prices. Major tree nut crops—almonds and walnuts—are forecast to reach record- to near-record-high levels of production in 2017/18, potentially easing prices.

The 2017/18 marketing year is well underway for most fruit and tree nut crops. Several crops are experiencing lower production in 2017/18. U.S. citrus production continues to decline, with total crop size currently forecast at 6.16 million tons, down 21 percent from the 7.77 million tons produced in 2016/17. All major citrus crops are forecast lower than in 2016/17, and reduced citrus production is expected across all major citrus producing States.

Expanded bearing acreage more than offsets lower yields to boost almond production in 2017/18, currently forecast at 2.25 billion shelled pounds. If realized, U.S. almond output—which accounts for nearly two-thirds of U.S. tree nut production—will surpass the record production of 2.14 billion pounds in 2016/17. At the same time, lower walnut yields per acre outweighed increased acreage to reduce production in 2017/18 by 5 percent from the record-large crop in 2016/17. However, at 650,000 in-shell tons, forecast walnut output would remain above the previous 5-year average crop size. U.S. pecan output is forecast up 3 percent from 2016/17, stemming from sharply higher production of native-variety pecans. Almonds and walnuts are produced almost totally in California, while pecans are produced throughout the Southern and Southwestern States.

Grower and retail prices strong relative to previous season

At 133.2 (2011=100) in January 2018, the grower price index for all fruit—a measure of the average change in prices received by growers—bested both 116.2 in January 2016 and the 2014-16 average index of 125.1. Citrus fruit prices have held strong in 2017/18, especially in the fresh market, mostly due to reduced domestic production. January 2018 prices for fresh oranges, grapefruit, and lemons were at their highest average levels for the month since the 1990s. With these smaller citrus crops, the anticipated early finish to the season will likely keep upward pressure on citrus prices this spring. Tight supplies of fresh pears (from both domestic and import sources) have also resulted in strong grower prices since fall 2017.

Reduced strawberry supplies from Florida and Mexico due to frigid temperatures in December 2017-January 2018 have boosted early-winter strawberry prices. A mild winter in California this year advanced the strawberry harvest, leading to increased early-season shipment volumes. Recent cold and rainy weather, however, could result in short-term supply gaps, likely strengthening early-spring strawberry prices as winter supplies from Florida and Mexico wind down. Meanwhile, despite a smaller crop, plentiful supplies of 2017/18 apples in cold storage halfway through the season have weakened fresh apple prices and may do so through the end of the season.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for fresh fruit has remained strong in 2018. At 367.2 (1982-84=100) in February 2018, the CPI was up 4 percent compared with a year earlier. Higher retail prices for navel oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries, and Thompson seedless grapes boosted the CPI in February 2018, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.