The clementine campaign has started early in the Spanish provinces of Castellon and Tarragona, and we'll still have to wait a few weeks for the first oranges to start being harvested. The clementine market is quiet at the start, but things are expected to start improving as overseas fruit stocks run out.
"This year we are starting between 7 and 10 days earlier, depending on the varieties," says the citrus producer and marketer Alfons Royo, manager of Royo Fruits. “Temperatures have been dropping to between 10 and 12 degrees at night for a week, which is allowing the peel's color to change quicker. Starting next week, we will have more consistent volumes.”
Although this year's volumes will recover compared to last season, Alfons Royo says that there will still not be a great production due to several factors. “We will see a greater recovery in the production of the Clemenules variety, the most important in terms of volume. However, it is worth recalling that last year we had a historically low harvest. Although we expect around 30% more volumes this year, there is a greater abundance of small sizes; therefore, we could say that the supply of commercial sizes will increase by around 5%.”
At this time, although the prices for the first early clementines are similar to last year's, the market is a bit stagnant and the demand is not that great, according to the manager of Royo Fruits. "It appears there are still some mandarins from the southern hemisphere in the European markets, so large European distribution chains will start changing their programs to work with Spanish citrus fruits after next week."
"It is true that there is still some uncertainty regarding the consumption of clementines and mandarins, as we don't know whether they, just like oranges, will be perceived as a source of vitamin C. The fact is that, since the pandemic started, orange sales have skyrocketed so much that we did in a single month what we usually do in three. Orange sales have remained high during the summer months, so we have very good prospects for the start of this campaign."
"Spanish citrus must highlight their greater environmental sustainability"
Competition from third countries is becoming stronger, both from overseas producers during the off-season and from other African countries. “There will always be consumers who prefer one variety or another, or a given type of quality, regardless of origin. However, I believe that Spanish exporters should highlight and raise the awareness of European consumers regarding our low carbon footprint compared to other origins; infinitely lower compared to the fruit from the southern hemisphere,” says Alfons Royo.
Consequently, since last season, the Tarragona-based company has shown its commitment to using compostable and biodegradable packaging. “We have more and more formats with sustainable packaging, such as biodegradable cellulose bags and meshes. We know that there is still a lot to do within the value chain, both on the part of producers and large distributors, but we are going to invest in this, because we believe that it can help us make a difference in the short and medium term,” says Alfons Royo. He also explains that due to the health crisis and the consumers' fear of getting infected, more bagged formats are being sold by supermarkets, to the detriment of fruit in bulk.
Royo Fruits continues to grow in terms of own production and new varieties and is investing in new machinery for the handling and packaging of citrus fruits. “This year, we already have 250 hectares with our own crops, and we hope that this acreage will continue to expand in the coming years. We are also betting on new varieties. Our latest addition has been the Murina clementine, which is like a Murcott, but seedless. This year, we have also invested in new machinery, and for the first time, we will have a central packing plant only for clementines with leaves and another for oranges and clementines without leaves.”