UC ANR study outlines costs and returns of producing lemons in Southern California

Nov 5, 2020

A new study on the costs and returns of establishing and producing lemons in Ventura County has been released by UC Cooperative Extension in Southern California and UC Agricultural Issues Center, both part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Coastal agriculture is always in transition and as strawberries and vegetables become less profitable due to markets and labor availability, lemons have returned as a potentially profitable alternative to those crops,” saidBen Faber, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Ventura County and coauthor of the study.

California lemon acreage was at roughly 47,000 acres in 2018-19, of which Ventura County accounts for 31%, according to the 2019 Ventura County Crop Report. Ventura County was growing lemons on 14,407 acres in 2019. 

“The profitability of lemon production depends on the price of land,” said Etaferahu Takele, UC Cooperative Extension farm management advisor for Southern California, another coauthor of the study. “If the price of land continues in its current trend, it could be prohibitive for new entrants to make a profit and limit further expansion of lemon production in the county.” 

Their cost analysis describes production operations for Eureka lemons on macrophylla rootstock, which are planted at 155 trees per acre with an expected life span of 40 years. 

The study includes a detailed summary of costs and returns and a profitability analysis of gross margin, economic profit and a break-even ranging analysis table, which shows profits over a range of prices and yields.

Input and reviews were provided by Ventura County farm advisor and grower cooperators. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for lemon establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead.  

The new study, 2020 - Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Eureka Lemons in Ventura County,” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu and the UCCE Riverside County Farm Management website at https://ucanr.edu/sites/Farm_Management/files/338947.pdf. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the websites. 

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, refer to the section of the report titled “Assumptions” or contact Takele at (951) 683-6491 Ext. 243 ettakele@ucanr.edu or Donald Stewart at the UC Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651, destewart@ucdavis.edu.

For information about production of lemons in Ventura County, contact Faber at bafaber@ucanr.edu.

By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach