Santa Paula-based Limoneira Co. told shareholders on March 26 that it expects a 25 percent jump in lemon sales and a record avocado crop in 2013.
CEO Harold Edwards said avocados could hit 18 million pounds this year — up 50 percent from 2012. But because of strong production and higher volumes, avocado prices will likely be lower than last year, he said.
Edwards said the company expects to break ground on its 1,500-home East Area I residential project in Santa Paula in 2014 and that it is aggressively working to develop 550 apartment units in the Santa Maria area.
Edwards said “real estate is the hot new subject,” with Limoneira now owning “2,000 units in various stages of planning.”
The company’s real estate investments have totaled $90 million since 2004, Edwards said, adding that the company projects cash flow of about $150 million after expenses on the East Area I homes alone.
He said the company expects to finance that project’s lot sales with a single $30 million credit line. But he said it was not possible to predict the future pace of sales.
As previously reported, Limoneira recently raised $36 million in a secondary stock sale with money used to pay down debt.
Limoneira accounts for about 5 percent to 10 percent of all U.S. lemon production and 12 percent of lemon exports. It has also started to grow more oranges and other specialty crops at the 1,000-acre Sheldon Ranches in the San Joaquin Valley, which it recently entered into a series of long-term leases with.