The 2019/20 EU citrus crop is projected to fall, mainly due to unfavourable weather in Spain, according to FAS Madrid data. Fruit quality is estimated to be excellent. Consumption of citrus is predicted to rise in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers look for sources of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system. The higher demand and lower supply pushed up prices in Spain during the first 16 weeks of 2020. EU imports of citrus are expected to grow slightly, mainly from Morocco and South Africa. The main export markets for EU citrus are Switzerland, Norway, and Canada, but exports to China and the Middle East have risen significantly in recent times. EU citrus exports are projected to continue growing in strategic markets. One dark spot is that US tariffs imposed to the WTO case against EU aircraft subsidies may impact EU citrus exports, primarily Spanish clementines and lemons. Spain´s citrus sector has held up well since the start of the pandemic and has continued to meet domestic and export demand.
The EU 2019/20 lemon crop is forecast to plummet by 16% from last season to 1.4 million tons, according to MAPA data, due to a ravaged season in main producer Spain. Total planted area continues to expand, and has grown 8% since 2011. Spain is the world’s second largest lemon producer, after Argentina, and the number-one exporter for fresh consumption. The main Spanish lemon varieties are Fino (70%) and Verna (30%), with the Fino variety predominantly used for processing. During the first 16 weeks of 2020, the average price for Spanish lemons peaked at €0.98/kg as the smaller supply and higher demand drove up prices. The average lemon price paid to Spanish growers peaked at €0.43/kg.
EU lemon consumption is expected to fall in line with the smaller crop. Per capita lemon consumption stands at 3 kg for the region. According to industry sources, Spain has become the second global producer of processed lemons. The EU is a net importer of lemons, and imported volumes are expected to grow in 2019/20 in response to the smaller EU crop. In 2018/19, the volume of lemon imports dropped by 10% in 2018/19 to 548,348 tons due to the larger crop that season. In value terms, EU lemon imports shrunk by 29% to US$575 million from 2017/18. The main suppliers to the EU are Argentina, South Africa, Turkey, and Brazil.
The EU’s lemon exports were up 25% to 82,102 tons in 2018/19, due to the larger crop. Main export markets are Switzerland, Canada, the US, and Norway. Exports to the US alone (mainly from Spain) rocketed 86% to 7,197 tons, worth $9 million.
© Alexandra Sautois, Eurofresh Distribution
South Africa’s tangerine/mandarin crop is projected to rise by 12% in the 2019/20 campaign, continuing the sector’s strong growth of recent times. Total production is estimated to reach 421,000 tons, mainly due to an increase in production area, normal weather conditions, and improved winter rainfall received in the main production area of the Western Cape. Moreover, many plantings are now reaching maturity. COVID had a minimal impact on labour supply.
South Africa’s tangerine/mandarin exports are expected to be up 16% in 2019/20 to 344,000 tons, due to increased production and the strategy of prioritising export markets over domestic markets. It is likely that COVID-19 has also driven demand due to the assumed health benefits of Vitamin C. Indeed, demand has been strong in the export markets, with the UK leading the way (26% of the total), followed by the Netherlands (21%), Russia (8%) and the US (6%).
Many new soft citrus orchards in South Africa are under netting to improve water efficiency, yields and the overall quality. In addition, there is an increasing trend to plant late varieties, which has shifted the peak harvest of soft citrus from the beginning of May to mid-May, continuing through to July.
© Alexandra Sautois, Eurofresh Distribution
Mexican orange producers anticipate their lowest crop since the early 1990s. The 2019/20 (Nov-Oct) crop is expected to reach 2.53 million tons, 45% lower than previous forecasts due to the ongoing drought and high temperatures that have severely reduced yield, sizes and quality. Orange production has been harder hit than other citrus fruits because many orange trees are older and require more energy to produce fruit. Additionally, many small producers lack irrigation technology and have poor crop management practices. Mexico is also facing issues with citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB), caused by bacteria introduced by psyllids, which makes citrus trees produce misshapen, partially green fruit.
In the 2019/20 campaign, Mexico’s orange exports are expected to reach 60,000 tons, according to USDA data. Most is shipped to the US, where demand for vitamin c sources is currently high due to the covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Mexico’s lemon/lime exports in the 2019/20 campaign are expected to reach 755,000 tons.
South Africa’s 2019/20 orange crop is projected to grow by 1% to 1.6 million tons, according to CGA data. The increase is attributed to good rainfall in the main growing regions, the rise in area planted, better water management techniques by farmers, and new plantings of high yielding and late-maturing varieties. Exports are expected to be up 8% to 1.28 million tons this campaign, thanks to the larger crop, better fruit quality, and rise in demand for sources of Vitamin C to fight COVID-19. The EU remains South Africa’s largest export market for oranges, accounting for 38% of total shipments. However, exports to Asia and the Middle East have grown steadily over the years due to the industry’s focus on growing these markets.
Exports to the US are expected to continue, albeit with a gradual shift from oranges to soft citrus exports, as South African farmers supplying the US market have been re-planting their orchards with soft citrus in response to market preferences and the higher premium received in the US. Indeed, South Africa’s orange exports to the US dropped in 2019 due to this shift in consumer preference.