Arizona lemon growers with fruit to sell during the just ended fall-winter harvest season received phenomenal financial returns – “one of the best years ever” – says rural appraiser Scott Halver of the Ganado Group, Inc.

“The net returns per field box (about 76 pounds) for Yuma-grown lemons this season were $12-$15 per box,” said Halver who has tracked the Arizona citrus industry for 25 years.

He says Arizona lemon growers can make a small profit at $3 per field box. Add another $9 or more return per box and the grower can receive an extra $9 or more to bank or reinvest in the orchard.

“This season we had good yields and phenomenal prices for those growers who had product to sell,” Halver said.

He discussed Arizona citrus during the 19th annual Arizona Ag Forum held in Tempe, Ariz. this spring, sponsored by the Arizona Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA).

Why the surge in lemon prices? Supply and demand.

On the supply side, there are about 5,000 fewer acres of lemons grown in low-desert areas including Yuma and Phoenix, largely tied to urban development which has uprooted groves to plant subdivisions and retail.

In addition, lemon production fell in the Yuma area from two catastrophic freezes over the last five years – the coldest winter weather in 30-40 years. Some lemon groves suffered major crop losses and tree damage while others were slightly damaged. In some cases, the difference between the two extremes was only a couple of miles.

Meanwhile, consumer demand for lemons has remained strong.