José Antonio García, from Ailimpo, an organisation based in Murcia which represents the interests of the production, export and industrial sectors and generates around 400 million Euro in revenue from the marketing of fresh lemons, juice and essential oils, offered us his assessment of the campaign.
What are your prospects for the coming citrus campaign?
We always talk about prospects at national level, as we take the Spanish lemon supply into account. We expect, an 11% growth in production as a whole. There are slight drops in grapefruit production volumes, of around 4-5%. But what truly matters is that the national harvest is expected to reach 900,000 tonnes, with a good balance between Fino and Verna lemons; a normal start for the campaign.
A good start, but how did the last one finish?
In general terms, last season's results were very positive. The entire production was harvested and all sectors involved reaped a good profit.
Which is to say, prices have been favourable.
Prices covered production costs and allowed us to make a profit. Perhaps the processing industry was the least profitable, as they had 150,000 tonnes less available to process. This was due to exporters demanding larger volumes, as Turkey had a bad campaign between September and January. This led to increased demand for Spanish citrus in Eastern Europe.
Will there be stock shortages this campaign?
We have no accumulated stock, so we start with "a clean slate". Additionally, it appears that lemons are of an excellent quality, without any pest-related problems. This is why we expect a normal campaign with good prices. Prospects for the Verna, which enters the market in April, are positive, so we are sure to cover all demand.
Is the sector changing to other varieties?
The sector seems to be abandoning the Fino variety in favour of the Verna, although the former still represents around 65-70% of the production, compared to the 30-35% of the latter. The truth is, newer plantations prefer the Verna, and this allows for a more continuous supply.
You mentioned earlier that grapefruit volumes are expected to fall.
Grapefruits are not very important for us, as there is great competition from Turkey, Israel, South Africa and Florida. We only pursue to keep our market share in red and pink grapefruit.
What are your challenges for the future?
One of them is the opening of new markets. We already ship to more than seventy international destinations. Spain is still the world's largest fresh lemon exporter, although 93% of its shipments go exclusively to the European Union.
And what new markets would you like to enter?
The problem is that many destinations are limited by phytosanitary protocols. We have already signed protocols with Japan and China, but we need to re-negotiate them. Additionally, the United States has a strong presence in those markets.