The citrus campaign has started earlier this year in the Spanish province of Castellon with the beginning of the harvest of the early varieties. A good demand is expected from Europe and prices have also reached good levels in the first transactions. One of the entities that are already active with the harvest, and the work in the warehouses, is the San Alfonso de Betxí cooperative, which has also recently completed its merger with Agroal, from Les Alqueries.
The head of the Field area at San Alfonso, José Luis Remolar, said that "the season has kicked off a bit early, the fruit is riper and the Clemenules already has more sugar, more juice and color than on similar dates in other seasons. However, sizes also tend to be too small for the fresh market and many will end up in the processing industry. "In 2019, there was a smaller production and the trees rested; in 2020, more pieces have set and the trees are loaded with smaller fruits," said Remolar.
As for prices, "the first transactions with the Clemenules have been closed for between 0.3 and 0.33 Euro, the same as last year at this time; and the demand at the end of the campaign (because of COVID-19) caused them to increase to between 0.4 and 0.45 Euro."
Furthermore, the suspension of citrus imports from Argentina to Europe until April and the lower production in South Africa will be very positive factors this season, according to Remolar.
The alternative to Brexit: market diversification
Despite this positive start, Castellon's citrus sector is facing new challenges in the export market this season. Enrique Ribes, secretary of the Castellon Exporters Association (Asociex), stressed that in this campaign, "Brexit will do a lot of damage due to the 16% tariffs on clementines." The only thing left to do is "diversify our markets and rely on the higher demand for citrus fruits due to COVID-19 in Europe (Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, etc.)". He also recalled that "the US and Russia, as markets, are closed, and it is unfeasible to ship to China due to the excessive distance from Castellón for the fruit to arrive in good condition."
For its part, the Citrus Management Committee said that "there is no alternative market" powerful enough to compensate for the loss of the United Kingdom and they only hope that, if there is no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom in October, the Spanish Government will reach a bilateral agreement. Shipping the goods before December to avoid Brexit is not an option, because a lot is usually exported in April.
In the Region of Valencia, the production in the 2020-2021 season is expected to reach 3,500,000 tons (+20%). That of the Clemenules in Castellon will amount to 360,000 tons (+40%).