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Christiaan van Ravenswaaij:

“Spanish citrus is smaller, but has a better price than last year”

“A fairly normal season, but with smaller sizes,” is how Christiaan van Ravenswaaij describes the Spanish citrus season this year. The man behind fresh produce wholesaler S.C. van Ravenswaaij from Veenendaal, the Netherlands, mentions volume is smaller this year, but prices are rising.

“Spanish citrus is best around the beginning of December,” Christiaan continues. “Ninety-five per cent of the citrus we import from Spain to the Netherlands is meant for the Dutch market. The remainder is for export outside of Europe. Because the volume of the Spanish citrus is a bit lower this year, prices are rising. Spanish citrus is at its best around 5 December, and that’s also when we have most demand for the fruit.”

Fewer tangerines but higher prices
Looking at Spanish tangerines, Christiaan noticed that this type of citrus also has smaller sizes this year. According to him, that’s the result of the warm Spanish weather of recent weeks. “This year, we had ten per cent fewer tangerines compared to last year,” he says. “Prices are rising by 15 per cent. Looking at tangerines, we can see there are many different varieties in quality. As a company, you therefore have to pay much attention to which variety you choose. There can be quite a bit of difference in shelf life, colour or flavour between the different tangerines. I prefer clemenules. The quality of that tangerine is better, and the flesh is optimal, in my opinion.”

Not only is there a difference in demand for quality of the Spanish tangerine, according to Christiaan, the appearance of the orange fruit also plays its part. “Tangerines can be sold with or without their leaves. We’ve chosen to sell them without leaves, although that’s a personal choice. Dutch customers prefer tangerines without leaves, while German customers prefer them with leaves. I personally think it is a bit more authentic, a clementine with leaves. After all, it’s a kind of experience for the customers. On the other hand, when the fruit doesn’t have leaves, they can’t wither either. It doesn’t look very good if the tangerines have withered leaves hanging off them after two days.”

Too warm for oranges
According to Christiaan, size and quality of oranges can be compared to clementines. “This year, oranges have a fairly stable market. There’s less volume and prices are rising somewhat. The colour of the oranges is almost the colour they should be. Because it’s still a bit too warm, they’re not quite orange enough. It should be around six degrees Celsius, while it’s 12 degrees now. That’s still too warm. On the other hand, the juice content is good, and it’ll only get better.”

That the volume of oranges is low, is an advantage for Christiaan’s company, but that isn’t the case for supermarkets. “Supermarkets always work with large volumes, although that can also be difficult, when there’s a switch in production areas, for example,” he continues. “When supermarkets switch from South Africa to Spain, they first finish the South African oranges before they can start with the Spanish ones. When there aren’t enough Spanish oranges, it becomes difficult for supermarkets to buy them, because they need large volumes. We can continue with smaller quantities, which is our strength. Even when only few Spanish oranges are available, we can switch to the Spanish version.”

Warm weather means more limes
Lemon and lime are represented on a smaller scale on the Spanish citrus market. Both types of fruit are fairly stable, although they sometimes have their peaks. “Lemon is stable every year. This is the case for both price and volume,” Christiaan says. “We have bursts in demand for limes. Lime is very sensitive to export as well. When there’s hardly any demand, prices for lime drop to between 3 and 4 euro. When demand increases, prices are around 10 euro. That difference is partly dependent on the weather. Although mojitos, which contain lime, are drunk throughout the year, for example, sales increase when it’s 30 degrees, and that is reflected in export.”

Difficult kaki market
Although kaki is gaining popularity in the Netherlands, the season is difficult every year, strangely. “Prices for kaki are bad and there’s much unrest on the market,” Christiaan explains. “We had a better season last year, even though we have the same volumes this year. Yet for some reason, prices are 25 per cent lower than last year. It’s expected that the market will recover a bit, especially once products such as grapes leave the market. People are becoming more familiar with kaki. By letting consumers try the fruit, they learn to appreciate it more.”

Fresh produce wholesaler S.C. van Ravenswaaij has been in the sector for 90 years now, and they know where to get their product from. Christiaan is the third generation in the family company, and he runs the company of almost 600 employees, in both the wholesaler’s and in the shops, with his relatives. “We strive for continuity with our company,” he says. “In all of the years we’ve been active in Spain we built good relationships with our permanent suppliers. Some of these business relationships are older than I am, even though I’m nearly 40 years old. Whether it’s about Spanish citrus or not, we’ll continue to expand and innovate.”

More information:
S.C. van Ravenswaaij
Christiaan van Ravenswaaij

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