Interview with Sebastián Lahoz, CEO of Espalmex

Spain: "Orange prices haven't gone up in the entire campaign"

Espalmex is a Seville-based company devoted to the marketing of citrus fruits. It produces 30 million kilos of oranges per year in 750 hectares, and around 90% of that is intended for export. In an interview with the newspaper ABC, its CEO Sebastian Lahoz talks about the campaign that is about to end and about the difficult situation of the citrus industry in the Vega del Guadalquivir. According to him, the final stretch of the campaign has been marked by "the same concerns as when it started in October: low prices at origin and the unfair competition from non-EU productions."

"During the campaign of the late varieties, which have a higher cost for the producers, there has been an accumulation of unsold fruit that has prevented prices from going up as expected," says Lahoz. "In fact, according to the Lonja de Córdoba, the price at origin of first class Valencia Late oranges has stood at 0.10-0.11 Euro per kilo in June, when a year earlier, the same product cost between 0.24 and 0.29 Euro per kilo. Not even sales to the juice industry have been a solution, since prices there have also dropped by around 30%."

"The ripening of oranges was delayed due to weather issues and when the harvest started, the rains arrived. We usually ship early varieties to the Arab Emirates as early as November, but we were unable to supply that market. After the rains, the quality of the fruit was not good enough for a transit of 25-30 days, so we lost a lot of sales," said the manager. "Espalmex exports to Europe, a very saturated destination, which is why we are also shipping to other markets, such as Canada, the Arab Emirates, Panama or Brazil. We are also carrying out tests in China."

Regarding Brexit and the uncertainty exporters are facing, Lahoz says that "we are looking forward to seeing how this long divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom will finally be resolved. We market about 5,000 tons of oranges per year in the United Kingdom and the citrus sector cannot afford to lose a consolidated market like this one."

Lastly, Lahoz said that "the sector needs greater support from the administrations, so that companies can extend their campaigns. It also needs more aid to exports, to allow it access to more distant destinations. Furthermore, it is asking for more protection for Spanish and European citriculture in the face of the threat posed by the subsidized entry of oranges from countries such as Egypt or South Africa."



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