The clementine campaign is already underway with the Clemenules (the predominant variety) and sales are reaching their peak as the demand picks up, even though prices remain high.
"We started our citrus campaign with the Marisol and Oronules varieties and, later, with the Arrufatina. Two weeks ago, we started with the harvest of the Clemenules, the most representative variety in terms of volume in the province of Castellon, but volumes only became more consistent last week and now we are already in the peak of the campaign," said Jorge García Monfort, commercial director of García Ballester, which handles between 38 and 40 million kilos of citrus fruit per year, especially clementines and mandarins.
"The clementine yields seem similar to last year's, although virtually all producing areas in the province of Castellon, where most of Spain's clementine and mandarin production is concentrated, have been affected, to a greater or lesser extent, by the impact of hail storms. Therefore, the volume of first class fruit has been reduced and there has been an increase in the amount of fruit intended for the industry," he said.
"However, in general, the weather has so far been less damaging than last year, when the heat neutralized the fruit's acidity levels. We have been having cooler nights for a while now, which is ensuring a better and more stable balance between acidity and sweetness in the fruit, as well as better turgor and coloration on the tree, which is allowing us to start packing Clemenules with leaf already. In general, we are hoping for a better organoleptic balance," said Jorge García.
The demand for clementines is picking up, according to Jorge Garcia, and we are approaching the peak sales period. "We are seeing a significant growth in the demand for clementines as St. Nicholas celebrations approach in central and northern European countries, so our workload is increasing. In fact, this week we are marketing many more kilos compared to the same week last year," he said.
"As far as oranges are concerned, we started harvesting the first Navelinas about 3 weeks ago and we have already been marketing them for about 15 days. We have observed that, in general, there has been a significant drop in the quality and sizes this year," he said.
According to the commercial director of García Ballester, in general, both oranges and clementines are more expensive than last season, something that, "so far, is not really taking a toll on consumption, except in Eastern countries, where they are looking for alternatives in other supplier countries, such as Croatia and Greece."
"In a year with a lack of large sizes, we hope that Leanri mandarins will stand out"
If the weather remains benevolent, Jorge García trusts that the Clemenules supply can be maintained until the New Year, after which it will be time for the Clemenvilla, Nadorcott or Leanri, a new variety that the company is firmly committed to, and of which it is already starting to obtain significant quantities.
"Last year, the supply of the new Leanri variety allowed us to distribute it for a few weeks, but this season we hope to have enough commercial volumes for the carrying out of supply programs. In a year with a lack of large sizes, we hope that Leanri mandarins will stand out, since the smallest calibers of this variety are the 3, while the 1x, 1 and 2 are the predominant ones," said Jorge García.
"It is a fruit with excellent organoleptic qualities, both in terms of Brix and juice quantity. Moreover, compared to others, like the Nadorcott or Tango, a variety like this one, that allows degreening, will make it possible to advance the marketing, depending on the market conditions. We are one of the largest producers and exporters of this variety. At García Ballester, we have always aimed to bet on new varieties. We were already the first to plant the Nadorcott and have been its largest exporter in some specific years."
Together with other companies in the region, García Ballester is part of a research institute for the breeding of new varieties. "We have about 20,000 varieties in the research process, 4 or 5 of which are in the final stages. We already have 2 clementine varieties of which we may start distributing seedlings next year. The climate is changing and we have to adapt to all kinds of conditions, and in this, varietal aspects play an important role. We are looking for varieties that bring value to all links in the chain, that ensure productivity and good quality for the growers, as well as a long enough shelf life and organoleptic characteristics that will win consumers over," said the commercial director of García Ballester.