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As the Northern Hemisphere winter chill lifts it is also time for the traditional switch over to Southern Hemisphere suppliers of oranges. The main citrus production country Spain is said to have had a good season with falling prices now towards the end, but their supply will last a bit longer than last year. However, the Spanish again bemoan the fact that the "European market highly appreciates Spanish oranges, but doesn't want to pay for them." They also complain about the low priced and lower quality oranges from Egypt that flooded European markets including their own local market.

South Africa as the second biggest production country is watching closely as their main market, Europe, is still full of oranges from Egypt and Morocco, both of whom found it difficult to export to Asia due to the attacks in the Red Sea. A lot of the fruit from these two countries was redirected to Europe.

In the US, large size profiles for California Navel oranges are available until the end of the season. The rains helped to increase the sizing of the remaining Navel crop. Mexican Valencias are selling for approximately 20 percent less on average than California navels.

Looking to South America an exporter in Uruguay notes that they see a worldwide shortage of oranges, which they are keen to supply. In Argentina's northeast the volume of oranges will be higher than last season with better production and quality expected in this 2024 season. Peru mostly produce oranges for the local market with little to no exports expected.

China's domestic volumes of oranges has nearly doubled, led by Sichuan, that had favourable weather conditions. Importers are concerned about the quality of Egyptian oranges, mainly as a result of the shipping delays caused by the Red Sea attacks. The arrival of American oranges is below expectations for this period, resulting in selling prices that are 10%-15% higher than last year.

Germany is seeing supply from several countries on their market, with Spain leading the pack. Greek citrus imports have become more important in recent years and represent considerable competition. However, local production in Greece is down while they have to contend with fierce competition in Europe. Turkey has seen increasing demand, but they are hampered by the Red Sea crises for their supply to Asia. Contracts had to be cancelled and loadings to the Asian market stopped altogether for some exporters. Italy had small sized fruit with increased production volumes that led to low prices for most of the season. Pricing has increased in April, which is now leading to lower domestic demand and slower sales. The Netherlands is seeing a slow-moving orange market.

Egypt: An orange campaign to forget
An orange campaign to forget for Egypt. The campaign is affected by two major factors: the Red Sea crisis and fluctuating exchange rates. These two factors lead to a drop in prices. According to one exporter, "the price of oranges on the tree has dropped from 12 pounds at the start of the season to 7 pounds currently."

Due to the Red Sea crisis, which began at the start of the Valencia orange season, Egypt exported almost no oranges to Asia. This has created an abundance of supply in other markets, notably Europe. This coincides with an increase in production, which this year could exceed the two-million-tonne mark. The normal result is falling prices. One exporter said: "Supply in Europe is too abundant and prices are falling. We are witnessing the harmful phenomenon of sales on commission, which used to take place on the Gulf markets, and are now being transferred to Europe. Exporters are simply trying to get rid of their citrus. Prices are even at the same level as the local Egyptian market."

The country's currency crisis, with the erosion of national dollar reserves, has led to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound. This helps to mitigate exporters' losses, but increases their costs in the opposite direction. Another exporter sums up the situation: "This citrus season is simply unprofitable. We are continuing to export merely to keep working, to maintain a cash flow, and keep our position in the markets".

On the positive side, the sizes of Egyptian oranges have improved compared to last season, when small sizes were too abundant. Growers have not regained the usual distribution of sizes, but the situation has improved this season thanks to better weather conditions. Faced with supply congestion in Europe, exporters have been striving to find new outlets. New destinations are developing for low-priced Egyptian citrus, notably Brazil and Canada, with the African markets of West and East Africa in second place. Occasional supply was also a breath of fresh air for exporters, enabling them to sell volumes. This was the case, for example, during the Ramadan period, when exporters massively exported to Gulf countries and Europe. Similarly, exporters are looking forward to the Paris Olympics and the summer season.

Morocco: Lower volumes, logistical delays
Morocco's orange season is off to a timid start. Volumes are much lower than in a normal year, due to the drought. In the Taroudant region alone, over 1,500 hectares of trees have been uprooted this season - a carnage. The sizes are smaller than usual, but that's what Moroccan oranges are generally known for. The Moroccan campaign begins as Egyptian, Turkish and Spanish oranges flood the European market, heralding a tough competition. Prices are still unclear.

Moroccan exporters are experiencing logistical difficulties and major delays in supplying Middle Eastern markets, due to the geopolitical situation. The Red Sea crisis has also cut them off from Asian markets. Exporters are nevertheless reporting good quality oranges this season that are desirable both for juice and for eating.

South Africa: Oversupply of oranges in EU noted
The first navels came in, mostly for the local market, while Valencias will start in two weeks' time in Limpopo. By week 13 there were still no exports of oranges. On the domestic market, oranges cost R5.16/kg. a decrease of 2% while volumes increased by 88%. The US is a market that grows every year for South African oranges.

Exporters in South Africa note that oranges in Europe are in over supply. This is because Egypt and Morocco find it difficult to send fruit to Asia. A lot of fruit is redirected into Europe. The market is full at the moment, that's influencing pricing levels. There is the expectation that large scores of oranges will have a market opportunity in Europe because many of the Egyptian oranges are small. South Africa's Citrus Growers Association reports that a drier summer with little rain at the end of last year has led to smaller sizes of different citrus fruit types. It is hoped that the autumn rain will help to increase the sizing of the fruit.

North America: Large size profile for California Navel oranges until the end of the season
The rains this year in California have helped increase the sizing of the remaining Navel orange crop. There is a steady supply of Navels on medium and large sizes–88s and larger. As the regular Navel varieties come to an end, the Late Navels will have larger sizes and fewer small ones.

Coming into May, some suppliers will finish up their Navel crop, and due to the thrip damage this season, there will be fewer fresh cartons packed and the crop is projected to end sooner than normal. Reports indicate that other shippers will not finish until mid/late June, which is later than the last two seasons. Some suppliers will begin Valencias in April which will help with some of the small size demand.

Industry production is also coming from Mexico which is producing Valencias, and they are selling for approximately 20 percent less on average than California navels. Meanwhile, in California, overall pricing is 10 to 15 percent higher than last season.

Uruguay: Looking forward to higher oranges sales in world markets
The country expects a 20% increase in orange production compared to last year (2023) to reach around 35,000 tons for export. According to Upefruy, the fruit industry body, very good climatic conditions has led to good sizing of oranges. Rain over the last few weeks has delayed the start of the orange harvest. Producers and exporters are watching to pick good quality fruit. The exchange rate is an issue for producers as the USD is lower compared to Euro's and other currencies. Uruguay's main markets are the EU, Brazil and the US, with small quantities maybe going to the Middle East.

Besides the increase of fresh orange exports, there will be an increase of industrial use of oranges because prices are good, they will compete with the fresh market.

A large grower and exporter in Uruguay notes, "It turns out that now oranges are the ones that will stand out in the markets, this year and for several years, because there are no oranges in the world, and even less if what you are looking for is quality!"

Argentina: Expect higher orange volumes than in 2023
The volume of oranges in the Argentine Northeast will be higher than in 2023 and in the northwest the same as in 2023 reports Federcitrus. The 2024 production is better and of good quality. A director from the industry body notes that, "the favourable global context of the orange industry will absorb a large part of the production this season."

Over the past few years, and especially the last year Argentina struggled with their currency, high exchange rates and very high inflation, while having to contend with several other domestic challenges. The new government has changed a lot of policies. "The situation is better this season due to the sincerity of exchange rates. The challenge is that the Argentine cost in dollars is not high, since inflation is decreasing but has not stopped, and to improve productivity and efficiency in the production, packaging and logistics processes."

Peru: Produces oranges mostly for local market
Peru does not export much oranges, all production is for local market their citrus industry body notes. The country are big exporters of soft citrus and Tahiti Limes. ProCitrus notes they expect a big drop in the early varieties of mandarins, Clementines (mid-season varieties) that will have a very slight drop, while late varieties like W.Murcott and Tango will have a recovery from last year. At the end of the season soft citrus expect an overall increase of 5%. The same as last year, the US will have less volumes from Peru this year.

Australia: Favourable growing conditions point to good quality and volume crop
Growing conditions to date have been favourable across most growing regions, compared to recent years. The 2022 and 2023 seasons were impacted by cold, wet weather. This season, the weather has remained warmer for longer across most growing regions.

There have been some region-specific weather events that have impacted on crops, included flooding in Far North Queensland, which saw a small number of farms inundated. The bigger impact was on transport accessibility. Western Australia has had a long period of extremely dry weather, but growers have been able to mitigate the dry period with irrigation.

Fruit sizing is generally larger than what's been seen over recent seasons and firmer fruit with less external blemish is expected.

It's too early in the season to put a figure on production volumes for oranges. However, if the favourable growing conditions hold, growers are confident of producing a high-quality crop that exceeds production volumes of recent seasons.

Valencia orange production is predicted to be lower than recent seasons, due to climatic conditions and the impacts of slow harvesting in previous seasons. In 2023, China/Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea were the leading markets for Australian orange exports by volume.

China: Domestic volumes nearly doubled, quality of Egyptian oranges concerned
In one of the biggest orange production regions, Sichuan, the harvest has flourished this season thanks to favorable weather conditions throughout the growing period. Compared to last year, this year's yield has nearly doubled, with a notable expansion of orchard planting areas around Pujiang, Sichuan's core production hub, by approximately 20 to 30%.

Among the popular Sichuan orange varieties, Aiyuan oranges have dominated the market in recent years. Aiyuan oranges have experienced a surge in production due to expanded planting, resulting in a significant price decline and unsatisfactory sales.

Regarding the import market, currently, the imported oranges on the market are mainly Egyptian sweet oranges and American varieties. However, logistical delays have hindered the timely arrival of Egyptian oranges, leading to concerns about their quality. As a consequence, market prices are experiencing a sluggish trend. Lower-grade oranges are fetching only a modest sum per box, while standard ones are priced between ¥130-150/piece.

The unsatisfactory quality of the delayed Egyptian shipment, coupled with ample supplies of domestic sweet oranges, is dampening demand for Egyptian oranges in the market. Furthermore, the eagerly awaited Egyptian sour oranges are in high demand. On the other hand, the arrival of American oranges is below expectations for this period, resulting in selling prices that are 10%-15% higher than last year. Surprisingly, despite the delay in the arrival of Egyptian oranges, their selling price remains unaffected.

Spain: "European market highly appreciates Spanish oranges, but doesn't want to pay for them"
As the different Spanish citrus areas agree, the orange market is slow, with low commercial operations and even low demand also for juice, as highlighted by the Lonja de Córdoba, which has been reporting few fresh operations since the beginning of 2024. "Until now, a lot of volume has been brought from Egypt at a very low price and, after having flooded the market, it seems that arrivals are slowing down a bit," comments an operator from Huelva who works in exporting oranges to Europe from all over Spain.

The figures, in fact, leave no room for doubt that the volume imported since the beginning of the year, mainly from Egypt, has increased in the EU, and that in March the tons of Egyptian oranges that have arrived have decreased compared to the previous month and also compared to the same month last year. However, the latest data on orange imports in the EU-27 segmented by country, updated this week, reveal that in the first two months of this year, Spain was one of those countries that has multiplied its imports compared to the same period of last season, specifically by 14%.

Meanwhile, prices at origin for Spanish fruit have been falling until they were below the average for the last five years in the first week of April, for the first time in the campaign.

"At the moment the most in-demand calibers are the small ones, because Egypt could have reduced the sales volume of those sizes," says an operator from Alicante. "But despite how things have gone so far, we must remember that the Spanish campaign is moving forward. The late varieties Valencia, Powel and Chislett will not enter their final phase for about 15 days, and now we are starting with the Valencia Late, so we will have fresh, quality fruit, just picked from the trees, until June. In Spain we have the best fruit on the market in terms of quality," he points out, "and the European market highly appreciates the Spanish oranges. The problem is that it doesn't want to pay for them."

Germany: Seeing supply from several countries on market
The citrus harvest in the northern hemisphere is now gradually coming to an end. In Spain, the largest grower country, a well-known importer can look back on a predominantly flawless season without any major deviations. In terms of volume, however, the 23/24 orange season was rather volatile, he says. "In the early varieties up to and including December, there was only a small production with predominantly good quality. In January, demand was higher than supply, which drove prices up accordingly. For the late varieties from February onwards, supply and demand then stabilised again." It has also been noted that Greek citrus exports in particular have become much more important in recent years and represent considerable competition.

Meanwhile, the last remaining quantities of Italian Tarocco blood oranges are now in circulation and this year's orange season is coming to an end. Good quantities of Tarocco blood oranges were sold until shortly before Easter. "Overall, demand was quite pleasing throughout the season, even though prices were sometimes up to 20-30 per cent higher than the previous year. Nevertheless, there were similar price increases for Spanish citrus," says one importer.

Due to the good volume availability, the Spanish citrus campaign will end later than last year. As a result, the switch to overseas, especially for lemons, but also for oranges, will take place later this year, predicts one importer. "In 2023, there were extremely large calibres of overseas oranges, among others, and fewer normal to small calibres. This year, on the other hand, we expect more normal to small sizes from South Africa and Uruguay, which is mainly due to the abundant harvest."

Greece: Local production down, contending with fierce competition
Overall orange production was down this season. On top of that, Greek exporters had to deal with fierce competition from other origins, which meant demand slowed down in 2024, despite a good start of the season.

Turkey: Increasing demand, Red Sea crises hamper supply to Asia
The demand for Turkish oranges and mandarins keeps increasing every year, as customers prefer to have more sweet options than grapefruits. Turkey has always had stable, but slow traffic to Europe, because of the big players like Spain and Greece supplying the market. This has been made worse by Egypt sending more volumes to the European market as well. As Turkey also supplies citrus to Asia, the Red Sea crisis really hampered the orange exports to this region. Contracts had to be cancelled and loadings to the Asian market stopped altogether for some exporters. Currently Valencia orange prices are stable and there are still opportunities to supply the clients as long as possible.

Italy: Small sized fruit, low prices for most of the season
Ismea data show a slight recovery in the area planted with oranges in Italy, reaching 86,000 hectares, and an increase both compared to 2022 (+1.1%) and over the last three years (+1.6%). Sicily is the leading producer, accounting for around two-thirds of the national total, followed by Calabria and Puglia. The current season, which is now almost over, has seen a 20% increase in the quantity compared to the previous campaign, but with medium to small fruit sizes due to unfavourable weather conditions. The market at source is suffering from an oversupply of medium-small fruit, with difficulties in absorbing it by the juice industry and high prices for larger fruit. Domestic demand has slowed as a result of the price increase, leading to a decline in retail sales of packaged oranges. Italian orange imports have fallen by 19% compared to the 2022/23 campaign, while exports have increased by 29%.

A wholesaler from northern Italy, specialised in citrus fruits and oranges in particular, says that after weeks of crisis with low prices, he noticed a slight recovery in orange prices from the beginning of April. Sales were slow throughout the season and there was no great satisfaction. It was a generalised situation in the wholesale markets. The organoleptic quality of the oranges has always been high, although the sizes, due to the weather conditions, were in some cases below expectations. The last Tarocco oranges are now available and the harvest of late varieties will begin. In recent months, prices have been between €0.70 and €1.30 per kg, depending on size and quality. Now they have improved, reaching up to €1.50/kg, while the juice size is quoted at around €1. These are not exciting figures, however, partly because there are not many large sizes. It must be said, however, that in the last 15 days the quotations have been a little more brilliant than in the winter months.

Netherlands: Slow-moving orange market
Dutch importers report that the orange market is quite slow-moving. Spanish supply has reached its final stage, and there is an expectation of fairly large volumes coming from South Africa. For Dutch importers, the mandatory inspection of 30% of the Egyptian supply is causing headaches. The price of good Lane Late oranges from Spain ranges between 11.50 and 14 euros depending on the size. Prices for large-sized Valencias from Egypt range between 11 and 12 euros in open-top packaging, while small Valencias in telescopic packaging range between 7.50 and 8.50 euros.

Next week's topic: Mangos