The Spanish citrus sector is in a time of crisis. Last year, rain caused major quality problems and overproduction. Prices plummeted and the market collapsed. Now the 2019 citrus season is in full swing. Hopes were high, but there are problems again. Llombart Handels- und Treuhandgesellschaft mbH, based in Lahr/Black Forest and with roots in Spain, specialises in citrus fruits - the team answered our questions about the current market situation.
"It is a complicated season. We will probably harvest 30-40% less clementines than last year. The calibres are larger, which can have a negative impact on quality at the end of the season. The shortage can also be attributed to the fact that we had a record harvest last season and the trees are producing considerably less fruit this year"; fatal, given the great popularity of the fruit at this time of year. "The Clemenules variety can be traded in normal years, weather permitting, until the end of January. This year it is expected that it will be available until the end of December at the latest".
In terms of prices, those of both clementines and oranges are significantly higher than the previous year's values, as is confirmed by the following statement: "This is also necessary because we have a relatively small harvest, especially for clementines, and assume a short season. The shortfalls are very noticeable here. It is not quite as serious for oranges, but the quantities for navelinas are also somewhat smaller than in the previous year."
Labels of the Llombart company
The most popular varieties among clementines are still the Clemenules: "Under optimal weather conditions this is the best clementine variety. In the case of mandarins, it is all about the Nadorcott and the Tang Gold, which we will be trading from January onwards. At the end of the Spanish season comes the Orri, which is becoming more and more popular, especially in the area of the company's proprietary brands."
Supplier brand of the Llombart company
"Our own brands 'Sonnenkinder', 'Klein aber Fein' and 'Rosinenbomber' as well as the supplier brand 'BICI' are currently in great demand and enjoy good sales. Our customers appreciate our constant quality and reliable availability," the experts say.
Labels of the Llombart company
There is little need for new varieties in addition to the established varieties: "We do not yet have any new varieties in our product range. Currently, the Navelina with its sub-varieties is the predominant variety for oranges. The first Salustianas are available in the juice orange range. The clementines are dominated by the clementines and soon the first mandarins of the variety 'Clemenvilla' will also be available". The Cara Cara will soon be launched, marketed under the popular private labels "Pretty in Pink", "La vie en rose" and "Die rote Lola": "Our customers are eagerly awaiting this."
The packaging issue has come to Germany to stay. This also plays a role for citrus fruits. In general, of course, one sees a movement towards less plastic: "For example, we avoid putting the goods in plastic inserts. They go on paper or cardboard. Nets have narrower banderoles or comparatively minimalist labels."
Retailers are trying to react quickly and are looking for new packaging options: "However, one must not ignore how the packaging companies in Spain are positioned and which alternatives really make sense. We also see that packaging companies see an opportunity to sell new machines and packaging, which is not always economical and sustainable for the packing houses." Sustainability and foresighted action are of great importance for the company, as Managing Director Juan Llombart explained to Freshplaza last year.
Juan Llombart in Oktober 2018
Accordingly, organic goods also play a growing role in the company: "In the organic sector, we have a very good supplier of lemons and oranges. In recent years, sales have grown steadily and we can see that more and more customers in the organic sector have found an additional foothold. Especially with lemons we see a growing trend and the consumer's interest in a bowl that can be used for cooking and baking without hesitation".
Aline and Liliane Llombart at the company stand at Fruit Logistica 2019
Quality, Availability, Quality
There are some emerging countries in the fruit trade that would like to outstrip Spain and are establishing themselves more and more in the entry-level price segment. "For our company, this plays a rather minor role, since Spain is traditionally the strongest growing country and has a serious lead in topics such as quality, reliable product availability and flexibility."