The Spanish citrus season is starting with the harvest of Satsuma-type mandarins and early clementines, for which a reduction in volumes is expected. "We started with the first Clemenrubí and Orogros with leaf in the middle of week 38. The harvest is not delayed, but we need some cold weather for a better coloration and, therefore, a greater supply in the markets," says Javier Usó, manager of Frutinter.
The Castellon-based company is specialized in the marketing of citrus fruits, as well as melon and watermelon, to a lesser extent. In the 2021-2022 season, out of the 143,380 tons of fruit and vegetables it sold, it marketed 111,125 tons of citrus and 20,682 tons of melon and watermelon. The company sells 70-75% of its citrus in Spain and the rest is exported, mainly to European countries such as France, Italy, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Baltic countries, etc. It also ships to more distant countries in Asia, the Middle East and Central America.
According to Javier Usó, "the yield per hectare of the Clemenules family and its mutations is expected to be higher than last year, when it was very low. We expect no less than a 10% increase in the harvest. Although it is also true that the varieties that precede it and those that follow will experience reductions; however, the decrease won't be as great for the late varieties. So far, prospects point to mandarins and clementines recording a total reduction of around 9.8%."
Usó added that "for the time being, we still face the risk of being hit by storms that could damage the final harvest, and it should also be noted that, since the use of pesticides and chemical treatments is increasingly restricted, there are pests that are affecting us more persistently, as is the case of the spider mite, which this year is going to be a real problem. There are many plots affected by spider mites, although we must also not forget the presence of the famous South African cotonet."
Frutinter's manager says that the first Spanish mandarins and clementines are being received with interest in the domestic market, although there is still a significant supply of overseas fruit in the rest of Europe. "There is certainly eagerness in the start of the Spanish citrus season. In Spain, when the domestic citrus starts, there is a quick reaction and overseas mandarins disappear. In Europe, on the other hand, this is not the case. If overseas mandarins have a correct commercial size and good coloring and taste, they can compete head to head with the early Spanish varieties, which, in general, reach smaller sizes and are therefore less attractive to the consumer."
Javier Usó, manager of Frutinter.
The company's first clementines are mainly intended for the Spanish market, as well as the French and Italian markets. "When the Clemenules arrives, there is an expansion of exports to the rest of Europe, with a strong presence in the central and northern parts of the continent," says Javier Usó. "It is difficult to forecast how the demand for oranges and mandarins will behave and, within a context of inflation, how consumers will behave. At Frutinter, we do notice that oranges are losing ground, while on the other hand, mandarin consumption is on the rise, even outside the cold seasons."
"Meanwhile, the entry of South African citrus into the EU (speaking especially about oranges) is being delayed by port controls due to the mandatory cold treatment, so it may be the case that, at European level, there will be a collision with the start of the Spanish campaign if all the containers that are retained in the ports are allowed entry," warns Javier Usó.
Growing interest for clementines with Zero Nitrate Footprint certification
Last season was the first in which Frutinter marketed clementines with a Zero Nitrate Footprint certification. "Let's just say that the interest shown by customers was very high and many are backing this fruit because of its commitment to sustainability throughout the production cycle. Of course, the certified clementine production is not high for the time being, as this first phase was implemented only in a farm as a test. Together with the development of smart agriculture, these satisfactory results will likely push the use of the technology to other farms and varieties."
Other producers can apply for this certification. In fact, it is one of the reasons for the work that Frutinter is carrying out together with the Polytechnic University of Valencia. "Saving the aquifers of our area of Castellon, which are highly contaminated with nitrates, is one of the objectives pursued by this certification. This technology is already known to irrigation unions and growers' associations in different areas of Castellon who have seen the benefits of it. In addition to an increase in the production and calibers, we are seeing a 65% reduction in the use of nitrogen fertilizer. Moreover, new irrigation techniques are applied that facilitate meeting the needs of the plants."