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The Debate Goes On Over the Arrangement Used to Market Citrus in the Golden State

February 03, 1991

Editor's Note: The California & Co. column, "Citrus Cartel Would Make OPEC Jealous" (Jan. 8), generated considerable reader response, particularly from smaller growers. Nearly all were critical of the current marketing system. A representative sampling follows.

Daniel Akst's article, finally, exposes one of the economic tragedies in California and Arizona--the navel orange marketing order monopoly.

As a small grower, packer, marketer, we have watched for years as our competitors are allowed by law to tell us what our sales quotas would be each week and how many cartons of navel oranges we are allowed to sell. Imagine IBM telling Apple how many computers they can sell in a particular week?

We had not sold any of our own navel oranges before the big freeze hit in December. Because we are small, we could not generate enough sales quotas to economically harvest our crop.

Under our navel orange marketing order, sales are limited and production is increased. The only companies that find this system attractive are the large packers and marketers who can pack and sell navel oranges daily every week of the harvest season, while smaller packers and marketers are forced to limit their harvest. I have witnessed the artificial expansion of the harvest season from 4 1/2 to 7 1/2 months, thereby, making a profit for marketers but not the efficient growers.

The navel orange marketing order, with legal authority from the U.S. Agriculture Department, is manipulated by increasing the production acreage beyond what is needed or can be sold, restricting sales, increasing sales volume and extending the harvest season.

With a built-in monopoly under the control of the Naval Orange Administrative Committee, the large packers and marketers regulate competition without regulating themselves and thus are assured a receipt for profits--except when there is a freeze. These profits are not based on a free-market system of supply and demand but a system of peer and price controls.

The results have created economic injustices that are unacceptable and immoral.



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