“The trees are helping everyone in the supply chain by getting us fruit with better color,” he said.
In northern San Diego County, water has become a major issue, Taft said.
A lot of organic citrus trees have been pulled out because of rising water rates, he said.
“The one crop that has been really badly hit by it has been the valencia oranges,” Taft said.
Eco-Farm lost as much as half of its organic valencias, along with a few acres of navels, he said.
It doesn’t pay to grow valencias in that region, he said.
“You’ll pay more for the water than you’ll get for the crop.”
Organic citrus usually continues to demand a premium price, growers said.
One reason for the higher cost is the extra effort involved in the growing process.
“You have to be very good at it to do it well,” Taft said.
While costs have dipped a bit on some inputs, like organic fertilizers, they’ve risen on others, like weed control and water, he said.
Mabs said it just isn’t practical for organic citrus to be priced the same as conventional.
“Especially with citrus, if you come in line with conventional, we won’t have any growers left,” he said. “The economics of it are just different.”
There’s definitely a premium, Stair said, but the extent of that premium can vary by time of year.
“Generally speaking, the beginning of the seasons and the end of the seasons are where we see the strongest premiums for conventional,” he said.