In Turkey the lemon harvest has started for the earliest variety. However, legal exports will have to wait a while as permission has not yet been given. The lemon has not reached the required ripeness and quality just yet. One Turkish exporter believes there will be significantly less volume for the Enterdonat variety, with 50 per cent less production compared to last season.
The lemon season is about to take off, with permission to export the produce hopefully coming soon. According to Mustafa Arslan, owner of MDA-Agricultural Products (MDA-Agro), the Far East could be a far more interesting marker than the European one: “The Mayer Lemon’s harvest has started and some companies are exporting in illegal ways. This isn’t allowed, as the fruit has not yet reached the right ripeness and quality one can expect from Turkish produce. For the Enterdonat lemons I expect production to be 50 per cent less than last season. I also foresee a very sharp decrease in prices for Mayer and Enterdonat lemons in two to three weeks’ time. I’m not expecting to export a lot to Europe this season, the Far East countries seem much more interesting with better potential.”
The weather has played a big part in the season, and although it seems to be okay now, Arslan is not completely comfortable for the rest of the season. “There have been two times in April and May that the weather was so hot with a storm happening right afterwards. The North-East wind affected the Enterdonat lemons the most, as its flowers dropped after that. This is the main reason the quantity has dropped by a significant amount. The weather seems pretty good right now, but we’re afraid of heavy rains in the end of October and November. Global warming is really noticeable in Turkey.” Arslan says.
With prices dropping fairly fast once the season gets going, Arslan is thinking of changing his strategy this year. “At the start of the season prices are usually on the high end, before dropping very fast. I got bored of this trend and therefore I'm planning to start my season near the end of September, whereas normally people would start 6-8 Serptember for Mayer lemons and 18-20 September for Enterdonat lemons. I’ll start a little later and wait for prices on the farms to drop, to prevent losing money.”
Although Turkish lemons are cheaper compared to the rest of the world, this has nothing to do with lesser quality, Arslan claims: “Turkish citrus really is of premium quality and is tasty and juicy in all its varieties. Big Turkish exporters like Eren, Aksun, Altun, Taneks and Tekasya lead the sector all around the world. However on the flipside we have exporters that export simply to receive commission and use cheap quality packaging. It affects our citrus prices in a negative way. The idea in Europe is that because Turkish produce is cheaper, it must be because the quality isn’t good enough. I dare to say our quality is better than that of Spain, Morocco and Egypt, but we’ve lost the battle in marketing.”
This season, MDA-Agro is hoping to enter the North American market, along with new destinations in the Far East. “I expect this to be the favourite new routes for Turkish exporters. If we can find faster solutions for shipments, I feel our sales to these markets will increase significantly.” Arslan concludes.