Spain: 20% of Vega del Guadalquivir's oranges will reach Asia

The citrus harvesting campaign has just started in the region of the Vega del Guadalquivir with the earliest varieties, hampered by the lack of water, although with good prospects, given the opening of the Asian market.

According to a statement from the president of the association of citrus professionals Palmanaranja, Antonio Carmona, approximately 20% of the oranges produced in the region could reach Asia in the coming months; a territory that some producer organizations, like Sunaran, have approached in recent years; in this case, South Korea. "These markets had been expected to become very important for our citrus; a trend that has been confirmed and consolidated," he explains.

This new destination for the production "will have a great impact on the sector," not only when it comes to exports, but also because it is helping decongest the European market to some extent, preventing it from becoming saturated," stated Carmona. Therefore, this market, given its magnitude, is gaining more and more weight and, in addition to requiring a large amount of fruit, it is also quite demanding. Thus, the volume that will eventually be exported "will depend a little on the quality that we have and on the calibres we obtain," he specified.

Aiming for this consolidation in Eastern countries, the agrarian transformation societies (SAT) are enforcing strict standards for the product's handling from the moment it is harvested until it reaches the warehouses, keeping the temperature of the cargo containers between zero and two degrees centigrade. These are "stricter" conditions than those in place for fruit intended for the European market, because the product must reach its destination in perfect condition after 30 days of transit.

With regard to production forecasts, the head of Palmanaranja estimated that there will be a 4% drop, with losses of up to 10% compared to last year in the case of the earlier varieties, such as the Navelina. This is mostly due to the weather conditions, which have severely marked the start of the campaign, especially given the lack of rainfall. In this regard, producers are highly concerned, despite the fact that they have manage to salvage this season thanks to irrigation, both in the orchards near the Guadalquivir River and in the Genil. Their sights, however, are already set on 2018-2019, because some communities of irrigators have warned that if it does not rain, "there will not be enough water to get a good harvest," lamented the president of Palmanaranja.

Regarding the quality of the oranges, producers have been surprised, because the internal analyses show a "very high maturity index for this time of the year," according to Carmona. This is related to the very high temperatures registered in summer, which has resulted in the fruit having high juice and sugar contents.

Regarding Andalusian citriculture as a whole, Ifapa technician Francisco Arenas stressed the solid growth of the sector, with 500 new hectares per year, especially in the western area of Seville, Huelva and Cordoba. This is coinciding with the reconversion of old farms and the planting of new varieties, including mandarins and hybrids. In short, with the exception of the weather, the prospects for the citrus campaign are not bad and the sector remains an economic engine for the Guadalquivir Valley.


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