The Turkish lemon season is having a pretty rough time of it. Due to the Argentinian lemons still being on the market, demand for the Turkish Meyer lemons has not really picked up yet. The hope is demand will increase once October begins.
The start of the lemon season has been challenging. The lack of larger sizes and the still present lemons from Argentine have made things more difficult, Mustafa Arslan, owner of Turkish fruit exporter MDA-Agro explains: “We have started the season with caliber problems for the Meyer lemons. In terms of demand the month September is a non-peak period for us. The Balkan countries, most of the West European countries and Russia and Ukraine still have a lot of lemons from Argentina and South.Africa. This has an impact on how we market our lemons, as these markets are the most important for our Meyer lemons. On top of that the weather has been very hot in the past few weeks. This has resulted in lesser amounts of larger sized Meyer lemons, which isn’t perfect for us. However we still expect a satisfying season overall.”
The rough start doesn’t mean the season is lost, Arslan says. Once the stocks of Argentinian lemons are depleted, he expects demand to skyrocket. “Volumes are same similar to last season when it comes to the Meyers. In the first weeks, however, exporters faced difficulties to take bigger sizes from the gardens. After October the harvested volumes of harvest will increase and we should see better calibers. Once the Argentinian lemons run out demand should also pick up. We expect demand to be really high in October, November and December.”
Besides the Meyer lemons, MDA-Agro also exports Interdonato and Lamas lemons. Prices for these lemons are very high, even at the farms: “At the moment, the Interdonato variety is very expensive at the fields, so it’s impossible to pack and export these lemons to Europe at this time. However I expect most of the Interdonato lemons to be exported to the Far East markets, as well as Canada and USA. While the Lamas lemons will be starting in November, prices are expected to be similarly high. Surely we’ll face difficulties exporting these lemons, as China’s lemon production and their marketing improve every day. It means China is becoming an important factor for our future with lemons.”
“Interdonato lemons should see the same quantities than last season, which is still a lot less than it was three to five years ago. The Lamas production is expected to be about 20 per cent less than last season. The sizes of these varieties are normal, but the scary part will be the high cost expenses, which in turn will lead to very high prices for the lemons themselves.” Arslan says.
According to Arslan, the coronavirus still brings a set of challenges to the table for the entire fruit and vegetable sector. “The hardest challenges we’re dealing with are the circumstances that surround the Coronavirus. It would have been impossible to predict the anticipation the start of a season. All the costs have significantly increased and the future is still very much uncertain. If the horeca sector in Europe comes to a stop again the consumption could drop a lot. However if new lockdowns keep people at home, maybe lemon consumption at home will increase? Nobody knows what to expect, which puts us in a very difficult position. We hope our partners will continue to support us this season, as we really need it. Times will be different and strange to us all, not just for lemon traders, but all companies in the fruit and vegetable sector.”
Last season Turkey suddenly put a stop to the lemon exports mid-season. Naturally this led to some clients of Turkish lemons being surprised. Arslan is sure that won’t happen again this season: “The ban was troublesome, but we can’t let it impact our current season. Putting a stop on the lemons last season was a big mistake, but this season we’ll have more than enough quantity and there will be no similar issue this year. All buyers can be sure that this will not happen again in Turkey. We intend to enter new markets this season, like Bangladesh, India, Estonia, Norway and Denmark. We see a huge opportunity in the Scandinavian countries for our citrus fruits. We’re also happy to announce we have become a member of Freshfel Europe!” he concludes.