Argentinian lemons are already being shipped to the international markets. "So far, throughout the month of May, we have been exporting just over 12,000 tons of lemons. It is still a small quantity, but we have taken special care with our shipments to Europe to prevent overlap with the bulk of the Spanish campaign," says José Carbonell, president of the Argentinian Citrus Federation, Federcitrus. "Only when the volume of Spanish lemons has started to decrease, always according to importers, have exports to Europe started."
"Argentina is a big lemon exporter; however, we are trying to recover our historical export levels in sweet citrus. In fact, this year we expect increases in the volumes of both oranges and mandarins, which have been recovering from a sharp drop a few years ago and from the closure of the European market in 2020. We are confident that there will be a good quantity and quality, as well as a greater supply from Argentina, and we hope that the demand will be in line with this increase."
The public consumer demand is an important factor to take into account, since we are coming from a period, the pandemic, in which there were alterations in the aggregate demand of some fruits, including citrus fruits, says José Carbonell. "It is difficult to make forecasts; for now, we can only talk about how it's going with lemons. The prices at which they are being shipped are not historically good, but the situation can change from one month to the next, and there is confidence that they will consolidate with the start of summer in the northern hemisphere and the increase in the demand. Although everything also depends on how responsible exporters are with their shipments," says the president of Federcitrus.
"What is certain is that stable levels are being observed in the lemon, orange and mandarin campaigns, and the quantities of fruit will be similar to those of the previous year, or even higher, so the southern hemisphere's citrus sector will be able to respond to the demands of the northern hemisphere markets."
"We have also started with the export of lemons to the United States. This year, California has had a big lemon campaign, and in order to avoid competition that could lead to rejections, the shipments have been delayed by approximately one month compared to last year. Last season, the U.S. market was very important for Argentinian lemons, as more than 70,000 tons were exported there, but it is likely that the delay in the start of the season and the greater local supply will entail a reduction of exports this season."
"As for China, in both Hong Kong and mainland China, Argentina had been consolidating as a lemon supplier, but there is currently a huge lack of freight capacity to reach that market," says José. "They are simply saturated. We have seen pictures of the congestion at the port of Shanghai, which is far worse than the one observed some time ago in the port of Los Angeles."
Freight rates are, in fact, a common (and worrying) problem for all exporters. Since the onset of the pandemic, the global supply has been reduced and prices have risen dramatically, although not only for maritime logistics services. "Rising fuel, input and fertilizer costs are also disrupting food production in general, and this situation has been exacerbated following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. There are many producers who are unable to fertilize their fields, and this will lead to an overall drop in food production in the countries that determine the global supply. We do not even have an explanation for this brutal increase in costs and for why freight or nitrogen fertilizers have become three times as expensive, when the increase in energy and fuel prices, which could explain it, has not been that sharp."
New destinations with interesting projections
In addition to the already consolidated destinations for Argentinian lemons (Europe, United States, Canada, United Arab Emirates or China), the fruit that leads the national citrus exports has the prospect of reaching new destinations with interesting prospects, reports José Carbonell.
"Our lemon shipments to Brazil, where we also have the advantage of being able to arrive by land, are consolidating. We have also started to ship lemons to Mexico, and it is likely that this year we will start exporting lemons to India, which reduced its export tariffs for a number of food products and is emerging as a tempting option. We are just starting, but we hope that in the medium term these will become important markets."
"Our campaign runs until the end of August. There is time, as well as opportunities, and we are surely ready," stresses José.