According to a specialist in the sector, “the first two weeks of the campaign went really well, with the highest volumes sold for Christmas. Both packages sold well, the lychees from Madagascar in 4.4 lbs and 12 lbs.” And although a decline in volumes is normal after the holiday season, this beginning of the year is still particularly calm. “Since early January, we've observed a clear cut after New Year. The whole market seems to have stopped, both for wholesalers and large retailers, even for the exportation. It happened quite suddenly this year, especially compared to last year which went a little better. From now on, we will try reducing the prices through special offers around 2 euros/kg [1.04 USD/lb], compared to 2.70-2.80 euros/kg [1.40-1.50 USD/lb] during the holidays. And the prices will most likely continue to decline during the remaining 3 or 4 weeks of the campaign.”
The ‘yellow vests’: an indirect cause of the decrease in consumption?
“Last year, the campaign was not excellent either but we had a better continuity into the month of January.” Even though the variation in consumption is multifactorial and random from one year to the next, the specialist suspects “a slight yellow vest effect” on the decline in consumption. “I do not think that the few stores that were blocked had a significant effect on the decrease in volumes, but the rather gloomy context and the atmosphere that reigns in France lately probably do not play in our favor.”
Madagascar occupies most of the lychee market
There is a big difference in production between the lychees from Madagascar and those from South Africa or Mozambique. “The lychee from Madagascar is a product that supports the whole country in the sense that there are very few private farms. The lychee grows in nature and people harvest it in their gardens and in the villages, and then bring it to the packaging companies which pay them a price on the spot. It is not the case in South Africa or Mozambique where there are only private farms run by suppliers who manage the entire production.” In terms of quality and therefore price, there is a difference between the origins. “The lychees from Madagascar are more affordable than those from South Africa and Mozambique. The former, non-calibrated, is at 2 euros/kg [1.04 USD/lb] on the French market, while the latter are sold around 2.5 to 3 euros/kg [1.10 to 1.40 USD/lb], depending on the caliber. A justified difference given the quality of the production and the work carried out.”
As far as demand is concerned, the specialists work more with the lychee from Mozambique and South Africa which is primarily a wholesale merchandise. But some supermarkets like Auchan and Carrefour now offer those two origins as well which sell better than the lychees from Madagascar. However, “the volumes of Madagascar lychees are so huge compared to the ones from South Africa or Mozambique that Madagascar remains the origin that occupies most of the lychee market, while the South African and Mozambique origins are still reserved to an exclusive clientele.”