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Argentina: Optimum lemon quality despite difficult weather conditions
“This year's lemon production was set to rise by almost 60 per cent over the 2014 season, including fruit destined for processing purposes. We were pleased to confirm this crop forecast as the anticipated increase was a sign that we would meet the requirements of our clients and ship our fruit to a greater number of destinations too,” explains Romain Corneille, president of ALL LEMON.
“Although we did not actually return to the traditional volumes of what is considered a 'normal' year, this was only because of complications caused by adverse weather. It is important to remember that in 2014 we experienced a very poor crop in production terms (some 750,000 tonnes) with volumes falling to an all-time historic low. This is why the following year we had an increase that appeared to be enormous.”
Despite the larger crop, overall exports only rose by 25 per cent against 2014 given that it was a very difficult campaign to manage in terms of quality. ALL LEMON's members had to double their usual quality control efforts, resulting in very low output from each member’s packhouse as the companies did their utmost to adhere to the quality assurances guaranteed by the ALL LEMON quality seal.
“High summer temperatures followed by continual and heavy rainfall at the start of this year were the key factors behind the difficulties that we faced when it came to monitoring fruit quality this year,” notes Carlos Parravicini, vice president of ALL LEMON.
“Furthermore, it is important to note that once the 2015 season started, the poor weather conditions only served to complicate loading operations in a way that we had not experienced in a long time. We had an extremely rainy winter. The area where we grow lemons is different to other production areas around the world in that our winters are usually very dry, but this was clearly not the case this past season. Nevertheless, the companies who are audited by ALL LEMON did their utmost to meet the volume requirements of their clients.”
During the season, ALL LEMON carried out daily inspections of 22 packing lines at its audited companies. The quality inspection team painstakingly checked over 600,000 boxes of lemons in order to eliminate any issues that could compromise the quality of the fruit, all of which arrived without any major issues on the world's key markets.
In further news, the ALL LEMON quality seal gained a new member this year. Lapacho Amarillo, a packer and exporter of lemons, became the latest Tucumán company to sign up to use the group's quality protocols. At the same time three companies (Cauquén, Expofrut Argentina Univeg and Moño Azul) decided to leave the Chamber of Citrus Exporters (Cámara Exportadores de Cítricos) that manages the ALL LEMON quality seal.
The companies currently certified by ALL LEMON are: Argenti Lemon, Cecilia Martínez Zuccardi, Citromax, Citrusvil, F.G.F. Trapani, Frutucuman, Juan Sigstad SRL, La Moraleja SA, Lapacho Amarillo, La Patria SRL, Latin Lemon, Ledesma, Pablo Padilla and San Miguel.
For the second consecutive year, in August ALL LEMON successfully passed the audit carried out by SGS International for ISO 9001-2008 quality certification.
“This great achievement demonstrates the commitment and professional approach taken by ALL LEMON to ensure the clients of audited companies that our lemons are produced to the very highest standards. The lemons grown by our members are subjected to rigorous additional quality controls and we know that quality is the most important factor for all of our customers. Complying with ISO 9001-2008 standards motivates us to continue differentiating our offer and our professional approach to the crop,” adds Parravicini.
The economics behind the 2015 season
The 2015 season was also marked by a complicated and different economic panorama, which varied considerably to that of previous seasons.
“This has been a very interesting year for lemons from Argentina. We have noted strong prices within the European market, in particular. In 2015 we noticed a greater stability of prices overall, which was in marked contrast to 2014. The season began with higher prices which were maintained before increasing slowly and gradually, but never quite reaching the extraordinary peaks that were recorded in 2014,” observes Ricardo Trapani, director of F.G.F Trapani, one of the companies audited by ALL LEMON.
“To this we should add the negative impact of the strengthening of the US dollar against the euro. Most of our lemons are sold in European currencies but returns are converted back into dollars before re-entering the country.”
Trapani also notes that “prices in Russia were attractive at a local currency level but in the final equation the devaluation of the rouble also played a key role in eroding the FOB prices, which are measured in dollars. The devaluation of the local Russian currency, as opposed to the dollar, was almost 50 per cent”.
Another development in this market, which is a key destination for Argentina’s lemons, was the decision by the Russian government to continue with measures that restrict food imports from Europe. Although this ruling has been renewed for a further year, some observers of international politics are not optimistic about its removal in the short-term. Russia has strict controls in place at its borders to prevent European merchandise from entering the country. Violation of these regulations entails immediate destruction of those products at the border control point.
“The situation in Russia has generated some operational complications for our product because the entry requirements for overseas fruit (in terms of labelling) are now far greater. We made sure we were able to comply with the new requirements introduced by the Russian authorities in order to reassure them about the work we are doing at the point of origin, and thereby avoid any complications that could result in the loss of the quality and service we wish to offer this market," says the manager of F.G.F. Trapani.
Access to new markets: USA, China & India
At long last the phytosanitary issues that were pending in the USA with regards to lemons arriving from Argentina have been scientifically refuted by Argentina; showing that the entry of the fruit poses no threat to the USA lemon crop. This important advance in dialogue led to a visit by representatives from USDA-APHIS last July to Argentina’s north-western provinces of Tucumán, Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca.
The group visited many plantations, packhouses and companies. Further meetings were held with officials of SENASA (Argentina's National Service of Agricultural Health and Quality), Afinoa (Phytosanitary Association of north west Argentina) and with local lemon exporters in order to agree on a working plan with regards to the re-opening of the USA market.
“We hope that the USA will now begin the process of public consultation during which the various stakeholders from both countries can make their comments with regards to the proposed import regulations for shipments of lemons from the north west of Argentina to the USA. Undoubtedly, we have made great progress and the meticulous scientific work that has been carried out in Argentina, together with the support provided by ALL LEMON, has been crucial in demonstrating the quality and safety of our fruit,” says Daniel Lucci, director of Citrusvil, another company belonging to the ALL LEMON scheme.
Meanwhile, a delegation from ALL LEMON participated with a stand at the inaugural China Fruit and Vegetables Fair which was held in Beijing on 9-11 September. ALL LEMON was invited to participate with the aim of promoting the high quality of lemons from Argentina alongside the Embassy of Argentina in China.
“India is another new market that is interested in opening its doors to our fruit. We were invited to attend various meetings during the Annapoorna World of Fruit fair that took place in Mumbai in mid-September,” notes Lucci, adding that “Asia is one of the key emerging markets of recent times and the fastest growing as far as export volumes are concerned season after season. It is demanding and as geographically distant as you can get from Argentina, but they trust our quality and want to buy our fruit. Asia represents a great future for us and we shall continue to work closely to meet the requirements of Asian markets”.
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