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Limoneira Co. Inc. working within lemon niche internationally

Limoneira Co. Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, is formalizing 20-year-old relationships with lemon export allies in both Argentina and Chile.

On June 17, Alex Teague, senior vice president of the firm, which is a division of Calavo, told The Produce News, “We have had, over the last 20 years, an informal association with the two groups.” Limoneira is “beginning a formalization” with FGF Trapani, headquartered in Tucuman, Argentina, and Rosales Packing in La Serena, Chile.

The new arrangement means Limoneira’s product will now be shipped from Chile and Argentina.

Mr. Teague also noted that Limoneira is a selling agent for lemons grown in Mexico for the first time, handling fruit from the Monterey area. That product will be available from July until December.

According to the Limoneira web site, the company was created in 1893 and produces lemons from 1,839 acres throughout California. Mr. Teague said that the California growing operations supply Limoneira lemons year round, but the volume is unable to satisfy demand at certain times of the year. Thus, he said, the three additional countries complement Limoneira’s domestic and export sales.

The process of finding international alliances has involved taking the time to pick firms with similar interests in handling high-quality product, sustainable practices and producing food-safe lemons, he noted.

Lemons “from Argentina, Chile and Mexico are high quality for that time of year. They fit our marketing window for the quality niche we have. They are a strong piece of the puzzle.”

Limoneira enjoys “heavy exports to the Pacific Rim, and during the summertime, Chilean fruit takes a quality position in the marketplace in Japan.” Limoneira will be servicing Japanese customers throughout the year “with traditional California labels with fruit from both California and Chile.” Chile will supply “a fresher crop and has a strong summer position in Japan.”

The Chilean lemons are generally shipped by sea containers to Panama and then transshipped to Japan.

“This is part of being a market-driven lemon supplier — to have the best fruit of the best quality with the best price that week.”

Mr. Teague said that Chilean lemons have been exported to Japan for “quite a while,” and he added that Limoneira might be the first California shipper associated with the deal.

Argentine lemons have not been allowed into the United States since a phytosanitary dispute created a ban in 1999-2000. Thus, Limoneira is involved in shipping Argentine lemons directly to eastern Canada from Buenos Aires. “We have been doing this quite a while. We are not reinventing the wheel, although we do work to improve it. In essence, this is a market-driven service. Our customers rely on us to be their lemon supplier.”