The USDA citrus annual for Israel shows that the citrus production in Israel for market year 2018/19 was much lower than was originally forecast, and for the new market year 2019/20 the total hectares planted will be down by approximately 80 ha. The productive area is estimated at 17, 000 ha, with the remaining 763 ha being young orchards, which have not yet reached maturity. The total area has decreased mainly due to uprooting easy peeler varieties that are less in demand and replacing them mainly by grapefruits. Total citrus production in MY 2018/19 was extremely low, compared to the past years and well below 2018 estimates. Production is expected to return to normal levels in MY 2019/20 with a total production of 525 TMT if no extreme weather conditions occur.
The report states that the industry has identified the weather as the main cause for the reduced production; heavy rainfalls with a total of 130 percent precipitation over the average across the country led to reduction in harvest days, late harvest and to quality issues. High percentage of the fruits were damaged and diverted to the industry. Farmers also reported that some plots were not harvested due to flooding and the yields were destroyed. As in other parts of the world, regional climate patterns are changing. More extreme weather conditions are affecting citrus production practices and yields.
According to the report, in MY 2019/20, the production trends for the oranges are expected to return to normal with the average production area reaching 4,100 ha. High demand and strong prices are expected to continue in the local market, which might be driving a small growth in orange production. The bulk of Israeli orange production will find its way to the local market and domestic processing industry as prices are less attractive in international markets. The report estimates that MY2019/20 orange production will reach 76 TMT, which is a 12 percent increase. This increase reflects stable weather conditions throughout the growing season. Oranges now represent 23 percent of the total area for citrus.
In line with other production decreases, the report is decreasing MY2018/19 grapefruit production estimates 10 percent, from 155 TMT to 139 TMT. Shipments of grapefruit to certain Asian markets remain strong. Consumption decreases are expected in the processing sector, which are estimated to decrease to 68 TMT as produced quality is expected to be better this season, the report states.
Israel is seeking out new export markets that will be able to absorb its produce with little competition from other countries. Currently, the aim is to increase the exports of grapefruit to Far Eastern market such as Japan, S. Korea and China as well as to open the Indian market for Israeli produce. Israel faces stiff competition in Europe from exporters in Morocco and Spain. Also elongated export seasons of the southern hemisphere compete with the early yield of Israeli citrus, according to the report.