The global orange trade currently faces various challenges across the different markets. In the Netherlands, importers believe the cold weather in Northern Europe may be beneficial for citrus sales. However, the lack of demand for oranges in Belgium is also also being accredited to colder weather. Meanwhile, Sicilian orange cultivation has been severely impacted by poor weather conditions, while Spanish orange exports have reduced for the third consecutive season.
Traders expect a better outlook for orange sales from mid-May as Egypt withdraws from the market and South Africa's early oranges enter the market. In China, the harvest of late orange variety BinChuan WoGan has been delayed by one month, despite a mild winter that has resulted in a good volume and quality of citrus. However, the local price of citrus has been disappointing, with a significant drop from last year's prices.
Meanwhile, North America's orange industry is struggling due to inflation and a decrease in demand, with Florida's production being heavily impacted by citrus greening and Hurricane Ian. In Australia, orange volumes have recovered by six per cent from the previous year, reaching 501,072 tonnes, but the value has dropped by four per cent to $420.7 million. Nonetheless, some Australian citrus exporters are poised to take advantage of new opportunities in India, after tariffs were cut in half in late 2022.
The Netherlands: Cold weather boosts orange sales
"Because the citrus season ended earlier in Spain and Morocco, we expect a good start to the overseas season. There is also more directional loading as a result," reports a Dutch importer. According to the latest harvest estimate, South Africa expects 50.7 million cartons of Valencia's and 25.2 million cartons of Navels. "Overall sizing looks better than last year when we had mostly small sizes. Also, the cold weather in northwest Europe may be beneficial for citrus sales. On the other hand, we also need nice weather so that people head to a café terrace for a glass of orange juice."
Belgium: Demand for oranges somewhat lacking despite good supply
The citrus season is in transition from southern Europe to overseas supply. "Still, there is relatively good supply at the moment," says a Belgian trader. "Spanish oranges have been struggling due to the fickle weather there, but South Africa seems promising. For now, prices are at an excellent level for the time of year. On the demand side, there is actually some work to be done, but that is mainly due to the colder weather. Around the holidays it there is always a big demand, now it's a bit quieter and towards summer people will be reaching for a glass of orange juice again."
Germany: Orange market look towards a successful end to the season
The supply of oranges to the German market is still going well. Spanish Navel dominates among hand oranges, complemented here and there by small volumes of Turkish and Egyptian Navel. In the press segment, Spanish Salustiana and Egyptian Valencia Late dominate in particular, with the price of the former being significantly above last year's level. In the blood orange segment, there are still Italian Moro and Tarocco. For Tarocco, prices are slightly up, while for Moro they are slightly down. There are also Spanish Sanguinelli which are cheaper than the Italian varieties in terms of price.
Egyptian imports will still be available until the end of May, they expect. Importers so far look back on a successful season, which started in mid-February. "Even as we approach the end, the quality is still more than satisfactory," they say. Only prices are very volatile, but overall above last year's level. We see that Egyptian Valencia is still gaining ground in German trade. In contrast, hand oranges from Egypt are niche," said an importer.
Italy: Poor weather severely impacts Sicilian orange cultivation
Sicily, an important player in the production of oranges in Italy, has faced many difficulties: a very hot spring last year, a long and torrid summer, a particularly mild autumn and early winter, and then the hurricane of February 2023 in the new year. The Easter that has just passed was ironically much colder than Christmas.
The Sicilian orange season can be considered to be over in the next few days, although there are still substantial consignments of blond oranges of the late variety that will be finished within the next month. However, production is fragmented in the various areas of the island.
As for blood oranges, this year's campaign cannot be said to be at all satisfactory, with the start of the harvest being hugely delayed, more than a month, due to the lack of the hours of cold weather needed to pigment the fruit. And the end was even worse, with an early closure coinciding with bad weather in early February. The orange trees, which had not been completely devastated by the hurricane recorded between 8 and 9 February, suffered a heavy fall. Production, which was already low and with sub-standard sizes due to the excessive heat of the summer and autumn months, thus received the final blow. Producer prices were so high that some buyers abroad dropped this segment from their price lists.
Spain: Spanish orange exports reduced for third consecutive season
The Spanish citrus campaign is already entering its final stretch. The production has been reduced by 32% (-608,000 t) compared to the 2021/22 season. The prices paid to the growers are in many cases the highest in the last ten years. The price at origin for Navel oranges currently stands close to 0.40 €/kg, so it has doubled since the beginning of the season, and it is 164% higher than a year ago and 47% higher than the average. At the packing center, the price comes close to 1.00 €/kg (some varieties, such as the Navel Late, exceed it), which is 94% higher than that recorded at this time in 2022 and 54% higher than the average.
With such high prices on the field it is hard for traders to defend good sales prices and make profits, especially when they have to compete against the Egyptian, Greek, or Moroccan oranges, among other third-party origins. The orange harvest is so low this year in Andalusia due to the drought, that Seville and Cordoba are now already finishing their harvest whilst last year the supplies were available until the end of July. The first Valencias are being harvested in the Valencian region and in Murcia. Traders expect that the outlook for orange sales will improve from mid-May, as Egypt withdraws from the market. The first containers of South Africa's early oranges are expected to start entering in early June, but there won't be a consistent supply from this origin until late June.
Looking at the total figures between September 2022 and January 31, 2023, Spanish orange exports have been reduced for the third consecutive season in terms of volume, but not in terms of value, where they remain above average (+2%). Volumes have fallen below the monthly average values in every month up to the end of January 2023, with the exception of September; however, the export value per unit has increased by 12% compared to last season and by 16.5% compared to the average of the last five seasons. This is the highest unit value in recent years. The reduction of exports has been spread between the different destinations, although it is slightly higher in the case of EU countries (-12%) than in third countries (-10%), compared to average values. On the other hand, Spanish orange imports have decreased compared to last season by -5.6% and -10.5% to the average of the last 5 seasons.
Egypt: Egyptian orange exports on the rise
This citrus season is finishing in Egypt with late Valencia oranges, available until the end of August. Volumes are abundant, 30-40% more than last year. Prices are lower than last season, as Egyptians are taking advantage of good exchange rates following the devaluation of local currency.
Oranges contributed to the success of the Egyptian citrus season. The country has exported 1.5 million tons of various citrus varieties, including Navel oranges, 10-15% more than the same period last year. With late Valencia oranges, the country is projected to surpass 2 million tons of exports this year according to professional sources.
Demand for Egyptian Valencia oranges is big from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia, and Western and South Europe, especially Sweden, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Earlier this season, demand for Navel oranges came mainly from Bangladesh, India, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Uruguay, as well as Muslim countries just before the Ramadan period. This was followed by a strong demand from Brazil and European countries, especially due to the low Spanish production.
South Africa: Fear of high costs could lead to less export
Navel estimates are just under 25 million 15kg cartons for 2023, the Valencia export estimate is a touch under 54 million 15kg cartons.
South Africa’s orange exports have started, primarily sending navels to the Russian Federation, with very little going to the Middle East yet and nothing to the USA so far (last year at this time orange exports to the USA had commenced).
These figures include oranges from Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Mozambique and increasingly Botswana. Valencia exports will commence around week 18; then from week 22 it quickly builds to a peak. The last Valencias will probably leave by weeks 42/43. There are producers in the Western Cape who manage to harvest Valencias right through the year for the local market as well as small amounts for exports to the Indian Ocean islands and Africa.
South Africa’s president has been mentioning the new EU cold treatment on oranges with increasing frequency; this week he brought it up during talks with the President of Finland who was in South Africa as he had during the Belgian King’s visit a few weeks before. He even tweeted: “We are disappointed at the acts of EU protectionism against South African farming products, most recently against our citrus. We are now the world’s second largest exporter of citrus and believe recent decisions made by the EU are unfair.”
On the local markets navel volumes have been slightly lower, resulting in a slight rise in orange prices to R4.51/kg. Market agents have expressed concern that orange volumes might reach overwhelming levels on the local markets, if growers export less due to high costs.
China: Late citrus delayed
This year, the harvest of China's late orange variety BinChuan WoGan is delayed for one month. Because the winter was relatively mild, the volume and quantity of the citrus are good. However, the local price of citrus is disappointing, much lower than last year. Before China's QingMing Festival in April, market prices were higher. Since then, they have started to come down.
Earlier this year in March, the first arrival of Iranian citrus landed in Shanghai by air. Meanwhile, there was a citrus scandal in Vietnam. Here Chinese citrus from Wenzhou, known for its good quality and affordability, was sold as Australian citrus, at considerably higher prices. Vietnamese consumers were unaware of this origin swap, as they appreciated the quality of the fruit. China's citrus exports to Vietnam are growing year on year.
South Africa's citrus export to China is experiencing a difficult season, and total export volumes are expected to significantly drop. Challenges include high input prices, transport costs, and strikes at outgoing ports. South Africa is a large orange exporter to China. Its export season starts in April. Finally, accordingly, to Egyptian orange exports, Egypt has experienced an overall positive export season to China, with strong improvements compared to the last two seasons. Egyptian oranges are typically used for juicing, and now that China’s food service industry has entirely re-opened since late last year demand has been steady and strong.
North America: Inflation slows demand for oranges
In North America, California and Florida are the main orange growing states. Florida continues to sustain significant losses due to citrus greening (HLB). In addition, orange groves were heavily impacted by Hurricane Ian last fall. According to the latest numbers from the USDA, orange production in the state is expected to be 16.1 million boxes this 2022-2023 season, down from 41.2 million boxes last season.
California’s orange production is forecast at 46.1 million boxes, up from 40.4 million last year. The increase is overshadowed by a decrease in demand. Demand for oranges is heavily impacted by inflation, resulting in a supply-exceed-demand situation. Consumers are more price conscious and have become more selective about the items they put in their shopping basket.
Domestic oranges are in season for another few months. Due to slower demand, US supplies will be available longer than usual while the import season will start in late May. The United States mainly imports citrus from South Africa, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina. The southern hemisphere season typically runs from May until approximately mid-November.
Australia: Australian orange volumes recover by 6% despite value drop
Orange volumes recovered six per cent from the previous year's low to reach 501,072 tonnes, for the year ending June 2022, according to the latest figures. Despite the rise in volume, it fell four per cent in value to $420.7 million - but the oranges have become the fourth-highest fruit category. Over the past five years, orange production value has increased by $87 million. In terms of exports, it was a drop off in terms of both value, down nine per cent to $260.2 million and also 7 per cent in volume to 161,052 tonnes.
The biggest single market for Australian oranges was Japan, which actually increased its imports slightly from the 2021 year, while most other markets fell. In terms of variety, Navel made up 85 per cent of production, with Valencia 12 per cent and others 3 per cent. Over that financial year, 11,394 tonnes of oranges were imported, the majority coming from the United States. Consumption-wise, 62 per cent of Australian households purchased oranges, buying an average of 1.40 kg per shopping trip. Australia also imported 643 kilolitres of fresh orange juice while exporting 5,101 kilolitres of fresh orange juice.
Meanwhile, some Australian citrus exporters with an interest in India will be ready to take advantage of a new opportunity in the 2023 season, after tariffs to the country were cut in half in late 2022. The agreement will allow Australian citrus exporters to export oranges (and mandarins) to India under a tariff-reduced quota system; the current 30 per cent tariff will be reduced to 15 per cent. The reduced tariff applies to the first 13,700 tonnes annually.
Next week: Global Market Overview Mangoes!