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Israel: Grapefruit market turns after promising start
“We had a very nice start to the season, but the grapefruit market has now turned,” said Oron Ziv of Mehadrin, one of the largest Israeli citrus exporters. Low inventories of fruit coming into the season raised Ziv's hopes that they would be able to move a lot of fruit this year, and that was the case for the first few weeks of the season. But as soon as cheaper Spanish and Turkish grapefruit hit the European market, Mehadrin's grapefruit sales dropped off.
“We had a much better start to the season this year than in previous years,” said Ziv. A large part of the reason for the good start, along with low inventories of fruit to compete with, had been the gap in production that Israeli growers enjoy between the end of the South African season and availabiliy of fruit from Florida, Spain and Turkey. And while Ziv admitted that the drop-off was expected, he didn't anticipate the market to shift so quickly.
“Normally, from November through December is not the best time for our grapefruit season,” said Ziv. “But we didn't expect it to stop so abruptly.” The shift away from Israeli grapefruit has mostly to do with the lower prices Spanish and Turkish exporters can offer, but, at least for the European market, it also has to do with the lower shipping costs for Spanish fruit.
The situation with avocados, which Mehadrin also ships, is similar in that Mehadrin enjoyed promising start to the season only for it to shift once cheaper fruit was available. The last two weeks have seen the market for Israeli avocados decline, said Ziv, but it's been getting better.
“Israel has now shipped much less over the last two weeks,” said Ziv. “So as shipments decrease, the prices are slowly getting better. The market is getting balanced.” So while the severity of the downturn was unexpected, Ziv said they've been in similar situations and they know how to steady the ship.
“We've had bigger volume this year, but we're trying to hold back fruit as much as possible,” he said. With less fruit on the market, he hopes to ride out lower prices and come back stronger at the beginning of next year. Like with the avocado market, Ziv believes the grapefruit market will balance itself out once less fruit is out there. Though he'd always like to have better movement during this time of year, he knows this is the nadir of the season and that, on average, the season will probably turn out well.
“It's still a long season, but things are slowly getting back to normal,” said Ziv. “Overall, the situation is much better this year because of the good start.”
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