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Citrus fruit production has notable scope for improvement

Wiki Spanish Food editorial team

Citrus fruit production in Spain in the 2015/2016 season will amount to around 6 million tons, down 20% compared with the previous season, according to initial calculations by the main production zones (Valencia region, Andalusia, and Murcia region), which account for 96.3% of all citrus fruit in Spain.

This season's yield is far from maximum potential production due to high temperatures during the ripening period. There was considerable damage to the recently-set fruit, leading to an increase in falling fruit, affected in different ways depending on the crop, location, citrus fruit species and variety, and phenological stage.

However, recent rain at the beginning of this fall could improve the quality of the fruit on this occasion in some of the production areas and also lead to a slight uptick in initial estimates.

Production is expected to surpass 3 million tons in the Valencia region, i.e. 22.3% less than in the previous season; amount to 1.73 million tons in Andalusia, i.e. 11.2% less than in the 2014/15 season; and total 726,672 tons in Murcia region, i.e. 23.3% less, as the lemon crop returns to the usual yields seen in previous seasons. In total, almost 5.73 million tons are expected to be collected, plus between 225,000 and 265,000 additional tons in other regions with later harvests, mainly in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.

Valencia region

In Valencia, the regional government's Ministry of Agriculture expects a harvest of 3,053,252 tons in 2015/16, i.e. almost 874,791 tons and 22.3% less than in the previous year, when around 3.93 million tons were collected, yielding a record in exports of over 4.2 million tons.

The area allocated for crops continued to decline in the last season, to 162,000 hectares, i.e. 2% and 3,300 hectares less than in the previous season, especially in Valencia, due to the persimmon and other alternative crops and to the abandonment of farms.

The lower estimate is mainly due to high temperatures in May, June and July. In contrast, rain at the beginning of September has been beneficial in general, leading to better quality, offsetting the loss of fruit.

Orange production is expected to total 1.5 million tons (-20.3% and 380,529 tons less); mandarins, almost 1.31 million (-23.3% and 397,230 tons less); lemons, 234,660 tons (-28.5% and 93,720 tons less); and grapefruit, 14,255 tons (-14.0% and 2,312 tons less).

Murcia region

According to early figures from Murcia region's Ministry of Water and Agriculture, a 23.4% slide is expected in all crops in the 2015/16 season, to 726,672 tons, due to extraordinary production in the 2014/15 season and to adverse weather conditions (mainly very hot weather during ripening and fruit setting, which will reduce production, with a slight decline in average quality).

Lemon production is expected to tumble by 27.4%, to 450,120 tons. The Fino/Primofiori variety will decline in the first half of the season and then drop off considerably in the second half, for a total decline of 21.3%. The Verna variety is expected to slip by 47.6%, although it will depend heavily on performance in January/February as a function of factors such as rain, quality, etc.

Oranges will fall by 19.6%, to 136,675 tons; mandarins by 11.1%, to 111,973 tons; and grapefruit by 12.8%, to 27,904 tons. As regards oranges, declines will mainly affect the Navelate (-37.7%) and Lanelate (-23.6%) varieties; as for mandarins, the Fortune variety will suffer the greatest decline (-41.2%), followed by the Satsuma (-22%).

Andalusia

The first citrus fruit estimates for 2015/16 call for production of 1.73 million tons in Andalusia, i.e 11.2% less than in the previous season and 6% less than the average of the last four seasons, as announced by the regional government's Ministry of Agriculture on October 7th.

In terms of varieties, the sweet orange, which accounts for 71.9% of the Andalusian citrus fruit total, is expected to yield a harvest of 1.2 million tons, i.e. 9.6% less than in the previous season, followed by the mandarin, with 364,791 tons (-8.7%), although provinces such as Seville and Almeria experienced declines of 30% and 6%, respectively, due to the inclusion of new farms. The lemon harvest is expected to yield 85,227 tons (-33.6%) in 2015/16.

In terms of provinces, Seville accounts for 37% of the total citrus fruit harvest (640,824 MT, 5.4% less than in 2014/15); followed by Huelva (461,762 MT, -14.41%); Córdoba (228,798 MT, -8,9%); Almería (220,038 MT, -4.7%); Málaga (136,086 MT, -30.4%); Cádiz (33,353 MT, -21.5%), and Granada (12,259 MT, -14.5%).

Andalusia is the second-leading producer of citrus fruits, trailing Valencia region, with an area allocated to crops spanning 85,000 hectares, i.e. 25% of the total in Spain.

The law of supply and demand

These expectations of a decline in the harvest will improve prices for citrus fruit farmers, especially if the fruit collected is good quality and varieties are staggered to allow for the market to adapt.

Requirements to draft sales contracts, establish volumes, prices, quality, premia and payment terms should enhance transparency in the citrus fruit market, considering that the Agency for Food Information and Control (AICA) can take action, as a result of claims or of its own initiative, as the entity that ensures compliance with Law 12/2013 on measures to improve functioning of the food supply chain.

According to Cirilo Arnandis, sector spokesperson for Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias, all the determinants are present for 2015/16 to be a good season and for all of the players in the chain to receive adequate remuneration for their work, including producers.

The citrus fruit trade association in Castellón province, Asociex, expects better export prices this season and, although they have already improved, there is still not a lot of supply. Its chairman, Jorge García, anticipates better use of production, after the many problems that arose in sorting and selecting the best fruit last season, due mainly to water staining, which increased handling costs in fields and storehouses.

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30/10/2017