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In Europe, Spain is the largest kaki producer. This year, the country has had a season with highs and lows. The fruit is also grown in Italy and Portugal, although their production is smaller. Israel has had a good campaign, but has lost market share in Europe due to the large supply from Spain. In the global market there are export opportunities in Asia and the Middle East. In China, the harvest this year is smaller. In California, the season finished earlier because of the cold and rain.

Drought and rain determine harvest in Spain
Because of drought, the Rojo Brillante season started with a shortage of large calibres. The rain in October had a positive impact on the sizes. Also, the fruit ripened slowly, which resulted in a lower volume. Therefore, the prices were high. In November there was a different picture, with the supply growing and exceeding demand, which caused prices to collapse. Europe was flooded with kakis; therefore, exporters also focused on shipments to other destinations, including Canada, Asia and the Middle East. In the latter region, Jordan in particular proved to be a growth market. At this time, exporters are again more focused on Europe, as faraway destinations are full.

Due to the heavy rain, the harvest was brought to a halt in December. The fruit still hanging on the trees after the rain was threatened by diseases such as Alternaria. The demand exceeds the supply, and although a large volume has been harvested, the sector fears shortages in January and February. It is expected that the quality of the fruit in storage will be affected due to the high humidity.

Besides the Rojo Brillante, other varieties grown on a small scale include the Tom Guash and Sharon Fruit. The sector is growing rapidly, not only in Valencia, the main growing region, but also in Extremadura, Andalusia, Catalonia and Murcia. The volume stands at 320,000 tonnes, but experts expect that in 2 to 3 years this figure will exceed 700,000 tonnes.

In order to sell those greater volumes, exporters are looking beyond the European market. In Europe, France and Germany are the biggest buyers. Furthermore, exports go to Canada, Brazil, the US, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The Russian market accounted for 20 percent of exports. Exporters are especially keen on exports to China, which according to them is a promising market.

Portugal more demand than production
The kaki season kicks off in September and lasts until about Christmas. Although this year's season started with some small jigs, the situation has returned to normal levels. A grower and trader says that most of the production is intended for the domestic market, which absorbs 90 percent of the fruit. Unlike in neighbouring Spain, there are not many producers in Portugal; thus, the demand in the domestic market is generally greater than the production. The pricing of the fruit depends on the variety. A hard kaki, like the one grown also in Spain, yields a lower price than the soft varieties.

Thanks to the first harvest, the fruit that was left on the trees had a chance to reach good sizes. Portuguese producers want to extend the season until February, as Spanish producers have successfully done; therefore, they are investing in late varieties. In such circumstances, the harvest lasts until December, and the fruit can then be kept in cold storage and marketed until February.

Kaki harvest growing in Italy
The first Italian region where growers planted kakis was Campania; essentially the Type and Vanilla, which accounted for 70 and 30 percent of the plantings. The cultivation concentrated in the provinces of Caserta, Naples and Salerno. Type is a group of varieties that has two characteristics: when the fruit is harvested hard, the tannins make it taste bitter, and they are seedless varieties. The Vanilla has firmer and sweeter flesh.

There is a growing interest in kakis as an alternative to traditional crops such as citrus, peaches, apricots and grapes. In particular, the Rojo Brillante variety has attracted a lot of interest. This seedless variety is characterised by a deep orange colour, crunchy, firm flesh, and a shelf life longer than ten days.

The acreage currently stands at 2,000 hectares. Besides the southern Italian region of Campania, the fruit is also grown in Emilia Romagna and Lazio. The production is insufficient to meet the domestic demand. A large organization reports that 15 percent of the 2,000 tonnes the company markets are grown organically. This fruit is mostly exported.

Available volume rising every year in Belgium
A Belgian importer reports that each year more kakis are imported from Spain. The fruit is increasingly popular among Belgian consumers. This growing popularity has not yet translated, this season, into higher prices. According to the importer, last week prices oscillated between 3.50 and 4 Euro per box, but this week there was a small rebound to 4.50 to 5 Euro per box. The cause for such a price increase is the smaller supply coinciding with a slightly higher demand.

The Netherlands: few kakis available
It has been raining a lot in Spain and this will result in a very small availability of kakis next week. That's bad, because normally, the week before Christmas guarantees good sales, especially for the packaged fruit. There are currently few kakis available on the market, but there should still be some supply until the first weeks of January, given the expansion of the production and the fact that there are plantations now becoming productive. However, it will still be assessed on a weekly basis whether the quality of the kakis is suitable for export, given the wet weather recorded. Prices over the past few weeks have stayed at a low level due to the big supply, but last week there was a bit more demand, and now prices are again at a level above one Euro per kilo.

Germany a good market
There is a good demand for kakis on the German market. The season runs roughly from October to February. Imports mostly arrive from Italy and Spain, among other countries. According to a trader, the demand for Spanish kakis has increased. That season started a little later this year. For the Israeli Sharon fruit there is barely any room on the market, according to an importer.

French prices for Spanish product
Prices for the kakis in the Rungis wholesale market this week ranged from 0.90 Euro per kilo for medium kaki to 1.10 Euro per kilo for the large calibres. In both cases, the fruit is imported from Spain.

Lower production in China
The Chinese season starts in August and ends in December. The main growing areas are located in the provinces of Fujian, Yunnan, Shanxi and Shaanxi. This year, the production has been 7 percent lower due to the impact of heavy rainfall. Moreover, the sizes this year are smaller than in the previous campaign. With production amounting to around 3.8 million tonnes, China is the world's largest kaki grower.

Taiwan is also a major kaki producer. Due to extreme weather conditions, including hurricanes, their overall production has been lower this year. As a result, the supply to the Chinese mainland is also lower. Chinese kakis are traded in Hong Kong. There is also a supply from New Zealand available. The supply from Spain is arriving slowly.

South Korean season over
Their season is now over. The volume was disappointing due to the high temperatures in October followed by periods of cold and rain. The volume was lower than last year and the season also finished earlier. While a normal season usually lasts until the end of November, this year it came to an end halfway through the month. Export markets include Canada, Indonesia, the Philippines and Hong Kong. In general, the prices reached have been high, especially in the middle of November.

US season finished earlier
Early rain and early cold temperatures resulted in an equally early end of the season in California. While the campaign usually lasts until about 10 December, this year the harvest was completed about a month earlier. Due to the rain and the cold, the trees also shed their leaves earlier. As a result, the fruit became exposed to damage. In addition to an early end to the season, there has also been a lower volume available this year, according to a trader. The average price stood between 3 and 4 dollars.

A trader says he perceives changes in the market. The company used to market a lot of kakis in single layer packaging; today, however, the majority is sold in bulk, especially to the East Coast of the US

Besides its own production, there are also imports from Israel. The first containers started arriving in early November. The import season runs from mid-November to late March.

The average US consumer is still unfamiliar with kakis; that is why promotional programs are being organised in order to give the fruit's popularity a boost.

Israel optimistic about season
Israeli exports used to focus on Europe, but Spain has taken a lot of market share away from the Middle Eastern country. Therefore, more Israeli fruit is now available for the US market. A lot of the fruit grown in Israel is of the Triumph variety, which is characterised by a high brix level. Apart from shipments to Europe, where exporters are looking for a niche, eyes have been set on Russia and the Far East.

According to an Israeli trader, the market is stable. The volume is, in fact, expected to be greater than last year's, but there shouldn't be any oversupply issues. This year, the harvest was completed before the rains arrived, so the quality and shelf life are good. An exporter informs us that shipments are made until early March.

Middle East an interesting market
A German trader explains that they are focused on re-exports to countries in the Middle East, including Jordan and Libya, which are good markets for kakis. In comparison with the market situation in Europe, the situation is better in these countries. The exporter is also optimistic about the upcoming season. "I think that the Arab market is the future for this sector."

Every week, FreshPlaza and publish an overview of the market situation of a product in a global context. With these articles we aim to provide a view of a global market shrinking due to globalisation. Next week, limes will be in the spotlight.