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- The 2013-2014 growing season for desert-grown lemons set a record price of $12-$15 per field box ($3 per box is profitable).
Interest in wine grape plantings continues to escalate in Arizona with an estimated 1,000-plus acres in grapes now.
Desert lemons, wine grapes
As with the lemon growing areas in California and Mexico, the Arizona lemon industry has a niche time frame to bring citrus to the market to gain the best prices - late August through early November in the desert.
Yuma lemons are grown for the fresh market destined for grocery stores.
U.S. lemon acreage totaled about 55,000 acres in 2012-2013. Back in the mid 1970’s, Arizona lemon production covered about 16,000 acres, and has fallen to about 11,000 acres today. About 75 percent of the state’s lemon crop is grown in Yuma County.
Halver was one of a dozen speakers at the ASFMRA event discussing how specific commodities fared in Arizona in 2013 and trends in farmland prices and rental rates.
Another crop which fared well last year in Arizona was wine grapes. Vine plantings are hot in the high desert areas, including Cochise County – the southeastern most county which borders New Mexico and Mexico.
“Wine intelligent people are coming here,” chuckled Mark Finley of Finley Appraisal Services, Willcox (Cochise County). “The majority of the people getting in the wine grape business here know what they are doing.”
Finley says grape folks have studied the environmental factors of the area - the hours of sunlight, the average mean temperature, the length of the dry season, rainfall, soil acidity, and others.
“They say these components match up to some of the best wine growing regions in France and Italy,” Finley said.
An Arizona grape industry source estimates statewide vineyard acreage at about 1,000 acres, and growing.
Traditionally, Cochise County producers grow alfalfa, cotton, vegetables, and grain. In recent years, thousands of acres of pistachio trees have taken root. Finley says those buying ground for pistachios include investor groups from California; many tied to the medical field.
“People here say the pistachios grown in this area taste as good as or even better than pistachios grown in California,” Finley said. “In addition, the production costs here are lower.”