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Chilean citrus growers savour sweet season

Citrus growers in Chile have every reason to sit back and tick all the boxes as the season, that’s almost coming to a close, has been satisfactory.

In an interview with Fresh Plaza, Juan Enrique, of the Chilean Citrus Committee, said they are pleased with the season in terms of weather as well as the market demand.

“The season is finishing very well, it’s been smooth so far, we are getting more rain in the north and, in terms of volume, we are finishing with a 20% percent growth in volumes overall,” explains Juan.

For clementines whose season runs from May until end of July, the profit went up 30%, while production rose from 29,000 tons last season, to 42,000 tons this season.

For mandarins, the production volume went up from 43,000 tons to 54,000 tons. On navels, Juan says “We didn’t expect much because of the winter and reduced rains, but the production actually surpassed our expectation as we managed 74,000 tons. Lemons this season - we did about 74,000 tons which isn’t bad.”

Thirty percent of this year’s lemon produce was exported to Europe, where the prices were also very good. According to Juan, the market for easy-peelers has been growing but things have been different for lemons: demand for lemons is dictated by the quality of produce. “Overall it has been a good season as we didn’t have frost, everyone tried to do their best and so far we are happy,” adds Juan.

The US, Japan, Korea and Europe are the main destinations for Chilean citrus with the US taking the lion's share. “For easy-peelers the US remains our biggest market, as 90% of the produce goes there. For lemons, Japan comes first, followed by the US and then Europe,” explains Juan.

One of the biggest challenges Chilean growers have to grapple with is maintaining its market base in the international market, given that there are new entrants like Uruguay, Argentina and Peru eyeing the US market. The biggest competitor for Chilean citrus, however, is South Africa. According to Juan, Americans love Chilean citrus as it is not different from the local citrus, as the climate in Chile is much the same as that in California.

Chile is investing a lot in improving the quality of its citrus as well as expanding its market base, with China top of its list of targets. “The future looks competitive so we need to prepare for that, we are investing a lot in new varieties, at the moment we are supporting four research projects aimed at improving the quality of our citrus,” explains Juan.

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