Record citrus harvest in Chile this season

In an interview with Fresh Plaza, Juan Enrique Ortúzar, chairman of the Chilean Citrus Committee, summarised the results of this year’s citrus campaign, which “has been historic in terms of growth in volume, with some ups and downs, but generally good prices. The market has been strong, and in that regard it has been a really good season.”

He explains that while last year’s volumes were lower as a result of the frosts of 2013, which resulted in good prices (except for Navels), “this year we had a record crop, going beyond 200,000 tonnes for the first time. We also saw growth in every category: lemons, navels, clementines and mandarins. The largest growth was registered by late mandarins (W.Murcott-Nadorcott), which are big from August to October.”

In terms of quality, he also reports no major issues and not much rainfall, which allowed for a very steady supply. For example, “we grew in lemon exports to Europe and also in late mandarins, and exporters distributed their growth well to their customers. We don’t yet have final figures for the FOB value, but we think it will be good because of the feedback we’ve been getting from our associates.”

In the long term, he believes that growth should continue to be registered for clementines and mandarins, “which are the categories where we see the greatest number of new plantings. I anticipate that most of the growth will go mostly to the U.S.” All clementine exports go to North America, as do 93 percent of mandarin exports, 89 percent of navel exports and 55 percent of our lemons.

But there's also expected growth in Europe, which is believed to be receptive to more Chilean lemons. As of now, 13 percent of lemon exports head to Europe. Meanwhile, navel plantings are expected to remain stable and lemons should grow slightly.

Mr. Ortúzar assures that efforts are also going into testing new varieties, with some private companies bringing them from countries like US, Spain, South Africa and Australia and local breeding programs “to see if they will benchmark better than the standard ones.” This is deemed really important, “as we must make sure that we continue adapting and improving, and I believe in 3-4 years big things should come from this.”

As a Citrus Committee, the organization also collaborates with research institutions on specific issues that are of interest for the Committee. “In that regard, we have made some accomplishments, especially on phytosanitary issues. Some institutions are also working on testing and evaluating citrus varieties, mostly mandarins, as we want to introduce new varieties and spread out the season.”

In this regard, easy-peelers, which register 35% annual growth, especially in the U.S. market, are expected to play a key role. The total volume of easy peelers “is already near 76,000 tons this year and we believe it will grow 20% annually for the next three years, so we should exceed 100,000 in a relatively short time.”

For more information:
Juan Ortúzar
Chilean Citrus Committee

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