There was a later start for the Turkish citrus this year, says Coskun Eren, marketing manager for Turkish fresh produce exporter Eren. He states that the higher prices at the start of the season didn’t really help with picking up the pace.
“This year, the Turkish citrus season started two weeks later than normal, so we had a slower-than-usual start. Also, the Turkish citrus overall had low volumes in most early varieties for lemons, grapefruits and mandarins, so the prices we not favorable either. This only added to the season being even slower. Thankfully this year South Africa and Argentina finished a little earlier so this kept the lemon supply scarce. South Africa also had fewer grapefruits on the way this year and Spain having fewer early mandarins at the start helped a bit too, thus demand remained somehow OK during this time. I guess in the end the situation always finds a way to balance itself out.”
Eren says that he does expect demand to pick up as the later varieties start to get going. “Since we are clear of the ‘low volume’ varieties now, things are starting to normalize. We have started early lamas lemons and now are continuing with oranges and late variety grapefruits as well as some mid-season mandarins such as Satsuma which has already started and Freemont and Nova, which will start quite soon. Things are looking to be better than at the start of the season. We are excited about late mandarins as well, as we have a good crop this year. I am expecting general citrus prices to remain high throughout the season, right until the end.”
As importers were trying to get the price down, some citrus traders decided to offload some of their early varieties on the local market, where prices were similarly high.
Eren explains: “The main news is that the early varieties, having less volume, delayed exports due to the pricing. Turkey is a big country and one should not underestimate the local demand. Local demand was high and the importers were not willing to pay that much at the start of the season so this led to small export volumes. Thankfully, this had changed towards late October. Our late variety lemon crop is healthy and has reasonable volumes. We have been increasing the citrus volume steadily every year. This year when you compare date to date, we are behind on volumes. But this is mainly due to starting later than usual. I believe it will balance itself out when we close our season in June 2023. I still believe we will make up for the lost orders in the early varieties.”
When it comes to citrus, there is a lot of competition. Eren feels that there is a good divide of the market with Spain, with a border where competition is most fierce. “Turkey has to share the EU market with Spain. They are stronger in the West and we are stronger in the Eastern parts. The meaningful competition happens in the middle line where you can find countries such as west-Poland, east-Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia. These regions are where we are head to head with Spain, the customer usually prefers who is cheaper at the time, given that both products are of similar quality. I would say it is a sweet rivalry. I believe we are not behind in the competition and the Turkish produce is holding its own.
Spain isn’t the only competition for Turkish citrus though, Eren explains. However, the Egyptian producers go for different markets and in some cases very different varieties. “For Egypt, we really have different markets, they are stronger in the Middle East and some container destinations whereas we are stronger in Russia and Eastern Europe. They are of course much cheaper than us, but our lemon varieties are so different that it becomes a personal choice for the customer when they are comparing. We are often selected, even though we are 10-20 percent more expensive than Egypt, but if the price difference is too high, then we might fall behind in volume.”
“Our main markets for citrus are the EU, Russia, and North America. We are mainly a retail-oriented company, so we are hoping to get more and more retail partners in these areas. We had a slow start but we are catching up. The late varieties are looking good and we are excited about the upcoming season.” Eren concludes.
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