As global orange production shifts from the Southern Hemisphere to the North, the market is characterised by high prices in many countries. In the Netherlands, the transition from an expensive South African season to the arrival of Spanish oranges has impacted pricing. Germany continues to experience high prices for South African and Australian oranges, while France is seeing a shift with Egyptian oranges gaining ground due to climatic conditions affecting production.

In Italy, critical issues in South African orange production have led to shortages, while the northern hemisphere faces Navel variety shortages. Spain's citrus production has been significantly affected by drought, resulting in lower yields and high prices. Egypt is eyeing increased exports to Europe and other regions as a substitute for reduced domestic supplies.

In South Africa, prices have doubled compared to the previous year, while in North America, steady demand and strong quality characterise the citrus season in Florida, with California gearing up for a promising harvest.

The Netherlands: Spanish oranges on the way after expensive South Africa season
South Africa showed a stable price level for hand oranges this year, however, there were huge shortages of juicing oranges on the market, resulting in high prices, which did affect sales. Meanwhile, the first Spanish Navelinas are being shipped. "Our suppliers indicate that there is a good balance in sizing. In terms of prices, South Africa is really the only reference at the moment. Now I cannot make the high prices that South Africa makes of 18-20 euros for the Spanish ones. If the market remains unchanged, the price level of Spanish oranges is more likely to be around 15-16 euros," expects a Dutch importer.

Belgium: Lower Spanish yields could hurt sales
"With falling temperatures over the last week, demand for oranges in Belgium is starting to pick up a bit. We are still working with the last South African oranges, which have remained on the expensive side despite moderate interest in recent weeks. Now that demand is starting to rise, as people are still grabbing an extra orange for vitamins around the inclement rainy days, it remains to be seen what the price level does," says a Belgian trader.

"Supply was plentiful, but you see that we are now really switching to the Spanish. Here, I do expect some lower volumes due to the ongoing problems with drought and water availability. That could still cause high prices, which ultimately doesn't do sales any good in these times either."

Germany: Orange prices remain high
South African blonde oranges of the Midknight, Navel and Valencia varieties continued to dominate and remained very high priced with good attention on the German market. New were Australian blood oranges in 8-caliber at €50 to €52 per 15-kg carton. South African Tarocco were sold at €2.35 per kg.

In addition, the first batches arrived from Spain and Italy. Even the prices for the usually rather cheaper juice oranges from Italy are currently quite high, reports a direct importer.

France: Egyptian orange gains ground
Currently on the French market, the last Navels of South African origin are coming to an end. Although Spain is usually the main producer on the French market, this year, climatic conditions have had a major impact on production, with consequences for quality. This has left plenty of room for Egypt, which will be increasing its shipments to France and Europe this year. While demand has so far been low due to high temperatures, it is starting to increase slightly with the arrival of colder weather.

Italy: Serious shortage of small sizes pushes prices up
With regard to citrus fruits imported into Italy out of season, some critical points in production have been noted since the beginning of the campaign. This was reported by the manager of a large multinational company. In particular, with regard to South African oranges, the campaign has been characterised by a serious shortage of small produce (intended for juicing). This has led to a much higher price per kilo, coupled with the problem of Citrus Black Spot (CBS). In fact, this is the main reason for the shortage of oranges. Most importers had to cancel some orders during the year.

Forecasts for the citrus campaign in the northern hemisphere indicate a significant shortage of Navel varieties in Spain, which will have a significant impact on prices in October and November. At present, however, estimates for Italian production suggest a stable situation in line with previous years.

"Worldwide, oranges are expected to be down by around 40 per cent. The current high prices of citrus fruits from overseas suggest that this trend will continue, at least until the arrival of Egyptian oranges, which usually flood the European markets," added an importer from southern Italy.

Spain: High prices and a lower production
The 2023-2024 citrus harvest in Spain is expected to be below 5.8 million tons according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, very similar to the last campaign, but almost 15% lower than the average of the last five years. Oranges will be, as usual, the citrus fruit with the highest production this season, with 45.9% of the total, although it could lose almost six points of representativeness compared to the average. 2.643 million tons of oranges would be produced, which is 8.2% less than last season and almost 24% (-832,000 tons) below the average of the last five, which results in the decline already noticed last year.

The citrus producing area most affected by the drought in Spain is Andalusia, where most of the oranges are produced nationwide. The orange harvest in the Guadalquivir Valley, one of the main producing areas in Spain, will fall by 20% compared to the last campaign, which would be around 50% below the average of previous campaigns and its productive potential.

The low yields are mainly due to the lack of water availability, the abnormally high temperatures recorded during the flowering and fruit setting phases, and the heat waves in later stages that have required irrigation restrictions in some regions. The majority of plantations have not been able to get more than 15% of the water they need. It is a dramatic unprecedented situation for the orange in Andalusia, where in general there will be an abundance of small sizes.

With such a low supply forecast, field purchasing operations by packing stations began significantly earlier than usual as they wanted to have their orange supply guaranteed as soon as possible, which generated lots of speculation. Orange prices are therefore quite high again, more than last year.

“The oranges, already in the areas of Seville, are being harvested very quickly, but we do not know how the market will go when the Navelina campaign begins, precisely because of the high prices that are being recorded in the field,” indicates an operator from the sector. “They are asking for up to 50, 60, and even 70 cents per kilo on a tree or on a truck. We still don't know if such a high price will be passed on to the supermarket chains,” he warns.

In Sicily, the orange campaign is just around the corner and this year's looks good, starting with the generous sizes that are very popular abroad. Also for the 2023/24 season, requests for the Sicilian organic product have been confirmed, mainly from Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt: Exporters aim to increase presence in key regions
Expectations for the orange season are optimistic. The dry weather conditions in Europe have led to increased demand for Egyptian oranges, as a substitute for their reduced domestic supply. Furthermore, the significant decrease in orange production in Spain and Italy, by about 30%, presents an opportunity for Egypt to fill the gap. Next to Europe, Egyptian exporters aim to increase their presence in key regions such as North America, Asia, and the Middle East. The citrus industry is witnessing a shift in marketing strategies and growing trends. Egyptian exporters are observing a growing demand for organic oranges.

South Africa: Prices double those of this time last year
The last South African oranges have been harvested and packed in the Cape. In the USA where, for the first time ever, more than a million cartons of the late orange Midknight were sent, the last vessel will arrive towards the end of this month.

The export estimate is 164.4 million 15kg cartons, just a smidgen off 2022’s exports of 164.8 million cartons.

Of that figure, 75 million cartons are oranges (navels and Valencias) and Europe remains easily the biggest recipient of that with 25.5 million cartons going to Europe this season.

The EU buys over a third of South Africa’s oranges, even though there had been citrus black spot and false codling moth problems after the heavy rainfall and exporters diverted fruit to other markets like the Middle East - the second largest recipient of South African oranges (13.5 million cartons) – and Asia.

On the local market oranges are trading for R7,23 (0.38 euro) per kg, more than double last year this time.

North America: Stronger pricing on domestic oranges to start season
Florida oranges are shipping steadily in what, to date, looks to be a calmer season than 2022. Last season was unique for Florida with two hurricanes and a freeze, which meant that volume was down. This year, in late spring and early summer, conditions were fairly dry in Central Florida which has brought on slightly smaller fruit sizing for the 2023 crop, which began in mid-September with Florida juice oranges and this week has moved into navels. However quality is strong.

The season, which started one to two weeks earlier this year, will go until June.

As for demand, it’s steady and matching the supply of fruit and pricing right now looks similar, if not slightly higher, than last year.

On the other side of the country, California may see a slightly later start so its harvest should begin between November 1-10. Better than normal sizing is anticipated though the overall volume looks to be the same. The initial 2023–24 California navel orange forecast is 74 million cartons, up 1 percent from the previous year.

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