Northern Hemisphere citrus crop to rebound

Tue 21/11/2023 by Richard Wilkinson

Northern Hemisphere citrus production is expected to be up by 12.2% this year compared to the last year’s disappointing campaign. This is the forecast released by the World Citrus Organisation (WCO) for the upcoming citrus season (2023-24). The estimate is based on data from Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States. This year, the forecast shows that citrus production is projected to reach 28.98 million tons. The 2023/2024 forecast is 1.48% higher than the average of the last 4 seasons. Total citrus exports are expected to follow a similar trend at 9.48 million tons, up by 11.4% from last season and by 4.5% from the average of the last four seasons.

Philippe Binard, WCO Secretary General, summarised the outcome of the Forecast. “The market insights we received indicate a recovery from the low point of last season. The growth is mainly influenced by growth in Turkey and Egypt while other countries are stable or only recorded marginal gains.”

Eric Imbert from CIRAD said: “While this year’s forecast shows a recovery with variable conditions across the producing countries and citrus categories, many parameters have to be taken into account for the market analysis. Climatic issues, such as late frost, drought, heat waves, or new pests and diseases influenced the quality, colouring, or harvest date for the production. The market will still be impacted by geopolitical instability while consumer demand is under pressure due to limitation of purchasing power and inflation.”  

Looking at the country-specific figures for the largest producers in the EU, Spain’s citrus production at 5.9 million tons is up by 2% from the previous season, with stable soft citrus compared to last year, fewer oranges (-6%) and more lemons. Italy is up by 6% at 2.6 million tons, with more oranges (+20%) and less soft citrus and lemons (-10% each), while Greece is down by 7% to 1.1 million tons. In the other Mediterranean countries, Turkey is now the market leader with a first production estimate of 6.5 million tons (+45%), with strong growth across all categories. The Turkish production forecast could even exceed 7 million tons. This results from the increased acreage and productivity, and favourable climatic conditions. Egypt at 5.4 million tons is up by 10% from the previous season and by 15% from the average of the last 4 years. The main category is oranges with 3.7 million tons (+5%) while the double-digit growth of soft citrus should see production reach almost 1.3 million tons. Morocco’s harvest is expected to partially recover to just over 2 million tons, with 1 million tons of soft citrus (+11%) and 930,000 tons of oranges. 

Philippe Binard added: “The WCO is also setting some trends for the expected utilisation of citrus for the upcoming season. The global citrus exports will be up by 11% to reach 9,4 MT, while processing will increase by 8% to reach 4.7 million tons, leaving 14.7 million tons for domestic sales (+14%.)”. Next April, the WCO will release the 2024 production and export forecast for the Southern Hemisphere.


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