Citrus greening threatens Florida grapefruit. Texas revival?

The citrus greening disease is having a major impact on grapefruit cultivation in Florida. Because of this, there have been smaller volumes this year and the season will finish earlier. Year after year, production volumes keep falling. The fruit harvested is mostly intended for the United States. Due to Florida's falling production, Texas is expected to focus more on Europe in the coming years.

For the global grapefruit sector, one of the most striking facts is that Asian countries tend to pay higher prices compared to European customers. That makes Asia very attractive as a client, although there are also risks, because the transit time is very long.

Global grapefruit consumption has dropped and this is partly because studies have shown that grapefruit is not always compatible with certain medications. Despite this, most producing countries see plenty of opportunities to boost consumption in the future. Prices are good in various countries. Due to the high dollar exchange rate, exporting overseas to certain countries is quite pricey. Additionally, grapefruit does not have the ideal size, logistically speaking, and not many boxes fit on a pallet. That makes the price tag quite high; however, most customers seem to have the money for it. In terms of quality, Florida seems to have the best grapefruit, although in terms of prices, the state suffers the pressure from European suppliers. Also, South Africa generally sells at lower prices than Florida and they are also expected to continue focusing more on Europe.

South Africa: Drought and production decline
The main production areas are Hoedspruit and Letsitele, which account for about 60% of the country's grapefruit. A large part of the producers was hit by hail in November, leading to very disappointing prospects for the season. Some growers have thus lost their entire production. In total, the decrease in production has been estimated to range between 30 and 50%.

The lack of rainfall and drought have taken a toll on the production and sizes, although the grapefruit harvest will still start on time, around mid-April. The harvest will continue until the end of June and the product quality is expected to be really good.

Asia is an important market for South Africa and they have a preference for medium to large sizes, which will be in short supply this year. China and South Korea pay good prices, so these markets are often given priority. Japan, on the other hand, does not fit anymore in South Africa's export picture, so shipments there are smaller. Moreover, the exchange rate makes shipments to Japan less profitable. Europe also receives a big part of the South African production. Demand has stabilised in Europe after several years of surpluses.

North America: Florida suffering impact of citrus greening
Citrus greening is a major problem in Florida and is causing the production to fall every year. The season will come to an end earlier. The trend of the season finishing earlier has also been going on for years. The last volumes are packed around mid-March. The prospect for this season is to reach 10.5 million boxes, which is about 20% below last year's figure, when 12.9 million boxes were produced. Because of the smaller volumes, prices have also been really high during the whole season. Competition from European countries is getting stronger every year, since they are able to supply cheaper grapefruit. Therefore, Florida focuses more on Asian countries, especially Japan and South Korea.

Texas returns to Europe
A long time ago, large volumes of Texas grapefruit were shipped to Europe, but after a period of severe frosts in the 80's, Florida prevailed and 'took' Europe, as it were, away from Texas. Florida is currently the leading grapefruit supplier in Europe and Texas has not shipped its fruit to Europe for the past 25 years. Now the situation seems to be changing, as Florida is facing the impact of citrus greening and this has resulted in a lower production. Texas thus sees many opportunities to export to Europe. The subtropical weather conditions in Texas are similar to Florida's. It is hot and humid with plenty of rain. Texas also finds that, in qualitative terms, they are at the same level as Florida. The appearance of Texas' fruit is not very attractive, but the grapefruit itself is juicy and full of flavour.

The Rio Red variety is widely produced in Texas. It is similar to the Star Ruby, although the Rio Red has a much darker pulp. The bulk of the production is still sold in the domestic market. Texas sees a lot of potential in Florida's drop in production and is expanding its acreage every year. Yet, Texas finds Europe a difficult market, because it has very high demands in terms of quality and packaging. A lot of attention must be paid to such aspects and shipping times are also quite long.

Mexico: Most production self-consumed
The Mexican grapefruit production in the 2014/2015 campaign was estimated at 432,000 tonnes. The harvest this year is somewhat higher. The country grows both red and white grapefruit and Veracruz is the most important region. Less than half of the Mexican grapefruit production is exported. According to growers, European demand is good and this has caused prices to rebound.

China: Higher production
China grows grapefruit in the Fujian region and other southern areas with warm climates and abundant rainfall. The bulk of the volume is available in October and November, but there is domestic production in the market also in February. Production in Fuji increased by 30% this season as a result of the good weather conditions; because of this, prices dropped by 20%. The domestic season is now coming to an end and the import season will start soon. In March, there will be imports arriving from Israel. Both domestic and imported grapefruit prices are expected to increase in the coming weeks. In order to guarantee the product's year-round supply, China imports grapefruit from the U.S., Israel, Argentina and South Africa. The most popular import countries are Israel and South Africa, which have long production seasons.

Australia: Niche market
In Australia, grapefruit is a niche product. Its acreage is small and there are only a few growers producing this fruit. Australians are not so familiar with it themselves. The harvest will kick off around April and the quality so far looks good. The season for red varieties lasts from April to August and for white varieties from July to September. The growing conditions have been optimal and growers are also happy with the sizes. Australian grapefruit is sold in domestic supermarkets, but other citrus fruit are much more popular. Demand for mandarins, for instance, increases every year.

Israel: Suffering impact of European competition
Israeli grapefruit is available from September to July. Between November and January, prices are often low, because the country then suffers the impact of the exports from Turkey and Spain. At present, prices are on the rise again and this trend is expected to continue until March. To survive the tough winter months, Israel focuses particularly on the Asian markets during this period. These countries often pay much higher prices than European customers, but there are risks associated with such exports, such as the really long shipping times, which make it a "difficult" market.

Turkey: Low domestic consumption
As expected, the production in the 2015/2016 season will be lower. Due to the fact that consumption in Turkey drops every year, the country has also decided to put production on the back burner. Moreover, grapefruit has also been negatively affected by current affairs in Turkey and demand has clearly been hit, and exports to other countries do, in fact, account for about 80% of the production. Compared to 2014, exports in 2015 have dropped. Russia is traditionally a major customer.

France: Difficult winter
In December, the grapefruit market in France was quite difficult, but as of January things have improved. Imports are smaller and demand has increased. Shipments will arrive from Florida until the middle of April, which is roughly when the South African season is expected to start. Florida has the reputation of supplying the best grapefruit, but due to the citrus greening problem, exports will fall in the next few years. Currently, France also has grapefruit from Israel and Turkey available, sold respectively for 14 and 9 Euro per box. Spain sells its boxes for 11 Euro.

The Netherlands: Upswing
November 2015 marked the launch of the Florida grapefruit season in the Netherlands. This year, there has been a seamless transition to the South African season, with limited supply in the market. Despite good prospects, the months of November and December were not entirely satisfactory in terms of sales, but there was a visible turnaround in January. Prices are higher and the price level is reinforced by the Dollar/Euro exchange rate. The last grapefruit are expected to arrive in Rotterdam around late April.

Belgium: A big fan of Florida
Belgians have a clear preference for Florida grapefruit and they are also willing to pay good prices for it. The South African season ended in October and reached record-breaking high prices. When Florida arrived, the market was empty, so the start of the season was really good. Grapefruit sales, despite the high dollar exchange rate, are currently at a good level. The season is balanced compared to last year and demand is normal. Supply on the market is smaller this season and therefore prices are high. Belgians believe that there no grapefruit comparable to Florida's. Texas grapefruit cannot match it. Volumes from Florida are falling every year due to the impact of citrus greening, but the volume is still expected to be sufficient to meet the needs of the European market.

Italy: New variety
Italy grows its own grapefruit, but it also imports a lot, especially from South Africa. Moreover, the country exports part of its own production. In 2016, a new variety with orange flesh will be launched which is intended for the processing sector. It is a cross between a clementine and a grapefruit.

The Spanish grapefruit production has remained fairly stable in the 2014/2015 campaign. Murcia remains the most important region in terms of production volume. As it happened in other citrus varieties, grapefruit production decreased in Spain this year due to the extreme hot weather conditions.

On the other hand, acreage seem to be increasing in Murcia, the main producing region in Spain, wehre the most grown varieties are Star Ruby and Ruby Red. There are new plantations about to come in the next season. De mand is raising in Europe according to a Spanish exporter, specially for breakfasts in France and Germany, the main destinations for the Spanish grapefruit.

Weather accelerated the rippening in grapefruits compared to the same period of last year, which means that exporters must be very careful in order to keep the quality until the selling point.

Prices are better in comparison to last seasons, and demand is stable but a huge demand is expected in France in the coming months as California had a bad harvest. France is a big importer from California. Russian boycot has affeceted the sales, specially for big calibers.

Cyprus is Europe's second largest grapefruit supplier. The country is known for the variety White Marsh Seedless. In order to meet the demand of red varieties, new plantings have been carried out recently.

Every week, FreshPlaza and AGF.nlpublish an overview of the market situation of a product in a global context.With thesearticles we aim to provide a view of a global market shrinking due toglobalisation. Next time pomegranates will be in the spotlight.

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