EU orange imports fell by 31.5% in the first half of the year compared to last year

The citrus season in Andalusia has been "one to forget". Unfortunately, and regardless of the use of this popular expression, it will remain in the memory of many of the producers who have suffered its impact. It has been a very complex season in which, in addition to the sector's own challenges, there have been unprecedented problems.

In its weekly or bi-weekly reports over the last few months (in which the word "crisis" has been mentioned on many occasions: pandemic crisis, economic crisis, logistics crisis, war crisis or energy crisis, the latter threatening us not only in the present, but in the future months), the Prices and Markets Observatory of the Andalusian Regional Government has been reporting the development of a campaign marked by low demand, few commercial operations and prices significantly below the average of the last 5 years for citrus fruits such as oranges (in week 24, for example, they stood at 11 cents / kilo at origin, 70% below the average of the 2016/21 period), which reached the final stretch of the campaign with fruit still unharvested.

Several factors have been mentioned as reasons for these results, and one of them has been the imports; however, the latest report on Reinforced Monitoring of Citrus Imports by the EU prepared by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, reveals that EU purchases of citrus fruits dropped by 11.5% in the first four months of 2022 (and by 10.5% compared to the average of the last 5 years), falling by 61,000 tons compared to last season.

In the first 4 months of this year, mandarin imports (41% of the total) exceeded those of oranges (35.4%) for the first time, marking a new trend in the last decade. However, both still saw a reduction in the volume of purchases from the EU compared to last year. Those of oranges fell by 27.3% and those of mandarins by 5.7%. In fact, all citrus fruits recorded reductions except for lemons, whose imports increased by 77.4%.

If we look at the data up to June, in the case of oranges, the fall in imports plummets to 31.5% (-111,000 t) compared to the same period of 2021, and to 29.2% (-99,800 t) compared to the average of the last 5 years, as highlighted in the report published just a week ago.

All countries have reduced their orange shipments, both compared to the year 2021 and to the average. Egypt, the main supplier in the period, with 83% of the total, recorded a very significant 31.3% drop (-91,260 tons) compared to last year, and a 17.3% drop (-41,950 t) compared to the average of the previous 5 campaigns, although it increased its market share by twelve points. Other countries also fell sharply in percentage terms, such as South Africa (-83.3%) and Morocco (-26.7%).

In the 2021/22 campaign (September 2021/June 2022), the total imports of oranges fell by 12.2% compared to the previous campaign and by 13.2% compared to the average of the previous 5 campaigns, as a result of "the high quantities recorded in the month of October," says the report.

The main supplier in this period has been South Africa, with 44% of the total, a 3% increase compared to last season and a 9.3% growth (+21,760 t) compared to the five year average. Second in the ranking was Egypt (35% of the total), which saw its volume drop compared both to last season (-31.7%) and to the average (-17.7%). Morocco, which was the third largest supplier of oranges in the EU, has also recorded a significant decline (-20% and -60.7%, respectively). Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has grown by 29.6% (+6,000 t) and 35.8% (+6,900 t), respectively.

These data are painting a picture and giving answers to the Andalusian citrus sector as to the importance of imports in the development of this year's campaign, although they also generate many questions and will probably make it necessary to review the causes once again. At this time, Andalusian producers continue to work in the next harvest, even though it is becoming even harder, due to the relentless heat wave. In the Region of Valencia, news has already arrived of the first prices of the next citrus season being 30% lower than the production costs.

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