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High prices at origin make exporting difficult

Spain: Still a lot of Primofiori lemon left to be harvested, but sales are slow

"Stressful" is the word that best defines the current campaign for several Spanish lemon exporters. Prices at origin are high, sales are slow and there is still a lot of fruit on the trees that needs to be sold.

In fact, it is estimated that around 300,000 tonnes of Primofiori lemons are still left to be harvested, taking into account that on 1 February there were still about 445,000 tonnes left; a really high figure for that time of the year. The lemons that are still in the trees are generally at a very advanced stage of maturity and already have very large calibres. They also continue growing in size, due to the constant rains of recent weeks.

"The situation is very worrying, because the lemons are ripening very quickly due to the combination of rain with sunny days and good temperatures; something that can lead to some quality problems if we do not sell them soon." There are still a lot of Primofiori lemons left to sell and the Verna variety is already ready to be harvested, since its ripening has also been sped up," explains a producer and exporter from Murcia.

The high prices at origin for the Primofiori have made it difficult for exporters to sell them in central and northern Europe. Ailimpo has described the months of January and February as "very apathetic" in terms of sales, with little continuity. Also, there is greater competition from Turkey in eastern countries, where they do not yet demand Spanish lemons, as their prices are much higher than those of Turkish lemons this year. The political tension with Russia may be the reason why Turkey is shipping less to this market and prefers Europe.

Primofiori prices at origin stand at around 50 cents per kilo, and the Verna, which is ready to be harvested, costs between 80 and 90 cents per kilo, although there are practically no transactions at this time, since exporters mostly prefer to wait for as long as possible before harvesting the Verna. The Verna production is expected to be 40% lower than last year, according to Ailimpo, although it should be noted that a record harvest was obtained in 2017.

"Lemon sales prices oscillate between 1.00 and 1.20 Euro per kilo, so the profit margins are tight. It is very difficult to sell anywhere in Europe, although it is most noticeable in the open markets, such as Perpignan and Rotterdam, among others," says another producer and marketer. Moreover, exports to third countries are also not great this year compared to previous years. "Outside Europe, we are not shipping to any other destinations besides the United States, Canada or Norway, and we trust that these markets will become even more important in the coming years," he adds.

The situation in the sector is one of uncertainty, although Ailimpo believes that the demand may increase a little in the coming days.

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