Spanish citrus exporters are facing some necessary challenges this season. "Last year, there was product oversupply and things were tough, but this year the situation is even more difficult," says commercial director Alejandro Peiró, of Peiró Camaró. "In our region, we will have about 30-35% fewer Clementines. As a result, I do not even have enough supply to serve my customers. There have been other years with a lower supply, but this is really very exceptional."
"In other parts of Spain, the fall in the production is even greater. For oranges, too, there is talk about a 20% drop in the production volume, but I still find that difficult to estimate. Growers are now setting incredibly high prices for their fruit and there is a lot of speculation. Personally, I think it is a worrying situation. Too much production, like last year, is not good for the market, but this isn’t good either. We really need to sell with some control. This is not a problem we will be experiencing only for a little while. As things now stand, the mandarin season will be coming to an end at the end of March," said Alejandro.
"On top of this all, the supply from the southern hemisphere has stopped arriving earlier. The market is empty and therefore all eyes are on Spain," says the trader. Peiró Camaró exports around 95% of its entire citrus range, mainly to supermarkets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where it has built a reputation with the 'Meine Süsse' brand.
With the 'Meine Süsse' brand, the exporter introduced cardboard packaging for the German-speaking market in 2009. "At that time, you didn’t really hear anyone talking about plastic reduction. In that sense, we were pioneers," says Alejandro with a laugh. The good thing was that when the issue became more popular, Peiró Camaró was quickly able to increase the volume of cardboard packaging. "We are now selling 2 million kilos of these cardboard packages per year!"
Last season, Peiró Camaró’s total volume amounted to around 35 million kilos, divided about 50-50 between Clementines and oranges. Around 40% of that production came from its own plantations. Alejandro is happy with the good sales of the cardboard packaging, but also argues for a realistic approach in the packaging discussion. "It is impossible to reduce the use of plastic to zero in one go. I am curious about who will pay for it! Given the fruit’s current prices, it will certainly be an expensive affair."
In recent years, the company has also focused on orange exports to China in the second half of the citrus season. "The first year went well, the second year too, but last year exports were under pressure due to competition with Egyptian oranges. We can never beat Egypt in terms of price, but we can easily win when it comes to quality, taste and food safety!"
According to the exporter, the biggest challenge for the Spanish citrus sector is obtaining good yields throughout the chain. "Big parties are getting bigger and are sometimes managing to have an influence on prices for the entire season. That is not possible for medium-sized players like us. In recent years, the returns from growers and traders have come under considerable pressure. I hope that supermarket customers realize that in order for the sector to stay healthy in the future, they must also continue to pay an acceptable price."