Does citrus fruit have a future in Spain?

Over the last 25 years, citrus production in Spain has grown by 50%, from 5,000,000 tons to the current 7,500,000 tons, but during that period there have been notable changes, not only in the location of the production, but also in the range of varieties and in the farm models, as pointed out by consultant Paco Borrás in the newspaper Las Provincias.

The Region of Valencia used to account for 70% of the production and Murcia and Andalusia for 30%, while at the moment, the distribution is 50% and 50%. Growth has been achieved by royalty-free mandarin varieties, by late oranges, both Navel and new Valencia Late, and by lemons. However, poor results have led producers to significant abandonment of small plots, mostly in traditional smallholding areas of Castellon and Valencia, especially those planted with clementines and Navelinas, as they did not have access to new club varieties or improvements in mechanization.

In fact, in Spain, 47,840 citrus farms of less than 20 hectares have been abandoned, which has led to the loss of 43,582 hectares. Meanwhile, the number of holdings of more than 20 hectares has increased by 771 and their total acreage has grown by 39,015 hectares.

Given these changes, while 80% of the farms in the Region of Valencia have less than 20 hectares, in Andalusia their share stands just at 20% and in Murcia at 25%.

Also noteworthy is the change in the number of commercial citrus warehouses; in 1992, when production amounted to 4,500,000 tons, there were more than 700, and at the moment, with a production of more than 7,000,000 tons, there are only 260.

However, as Borrás points out, Spanish citrus fruits certainly have a future. They are sold and exported to more than 90 countries. In Europe, they have a market of 600 million consumers, with most destinations being free of tariffs, physical customs and bureaucratic problems, and it takes the products just 48 to 72 hours to go from warehouses to large consumption centers.

They have a relatively well-balanced 9-month long campaign from October to June, and their food safety is beyond question, given the European Union's strict farming regulations. Citrus cultivation is in itself sustainable and the transport footprint of Spanish citrus is among the lowest of any citrus producer in the world, only behind Italy, says Borrás.


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