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Arrivals of Argentine lemons into the US expected this week
Argentine lemons are due to arrive on the East Coast of the United States within the week, the first time in 15 years. This season will see moderate volumes as growers and shippers remain cautious about how the US market will respond.
"Shipments of lemons from Argentina to the United States began in April and are due to arrive late this week or early next week," said Michael Mahon of Citromax. "The market has just been opened up after a lengthy absence, so this year is a trial year to see how the market responds. Volume for the fresh market typically drops off at the end of July, beginning of August, while lemons for processing continue through September."
Citromax facilities in Tucuman, Argentina
Restrained entry to US market
Lemon growers in California are very worried about the impact Argentine imports will have in the United States. This is primarily because Argentina is the largest exporter of lemons, but also because there was a fear of disease being imported along with the fruit. In reality, certain restrictions have been placed on imports, and at any rate, the proportion of total exports - particularly of fresh lemons - is still rather small in comparison.
"Total production estimates for this year's crop is in the range of between 1.4-1.5 million metric tons," Mahon said. "Out of those, only a small percentage is expected to be shipped to the United States. Moreover, shipments have been restricted to only a few ports on the East Coast, with no shipments allowed to the West Coast."
Mahon explained that the vast majority of the lemons produced in Argentina are destined for processing rather than the fresh market, due to the way they are grown and the conditions surrounding lengthy shipments. "Of the 1.5m metric tons produced, between 1.1 and 1.2m metric tons are used for industrial processing. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the transit times are typically much longer than other lemon growing countries, which then requires additional treatments to the fruit and added costs. Secondly, we can only ship early season fruit, before it ripens, due to longer transit times. Additionally, we do not pre-treat our entire crop with the required herbicides, fungicides, etc, that are used for the fresh market crops, as our roots have built upon supplying the industry with the lemon by-products. Therefore they are better utilized for products such as lemon oil, lemon peel, pulp, and all other products derived from lemons."
Because many of the Argentine lemons go into processing, companies like Citromax have taken the opportunity to use the lemons to make a host of products. In fact, Citromax built a new factory 6 years ago in the heart of Tucuman, with a capacity of 210,000 metric tons. 75 percent of the lemons used in the factory are their own.
"Citromax is the only American-owned, Argentine lemon company and we are also the third largest in the world," Mahon shared. "The company was started over 50 years ago, and was involved in the creation and industrialization of flavors and fragrances for industrial application. Because we are vertically integrated, we also grow the lemons that we use to ship and process. Citromax has a relatively new factory, built in 2012, where we produce many different lemon products that are in high demand."
"We are also the largest producer of organic lemons in the world," he continued. "One of the products that continues to see year on year increase is organic lemon juice. This is an incredibly sought after product, particularly in the US and Europe."
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