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Mandarin and citrus production in the Northern Hemisphere is in the second half of its campaign with the end in sight for many producing countries. The Orri Jaffa variety is attracting the highest prices in many markets. Israel reports a good winter with mild weather, including record breaking rain levels that did not harm the trees, but aided the quality. Despite challenges with manpower to harvest, export volumes were kept flowing to meet the big demand in markets, especially in Europe.

In the main Italian wholesale markets late Sicilian mandarins, as well as Spanish and Italian Hernandina clementines can be found. Also available are Turkish and Spanish Nadorcott and Spanish Tango. The Israeli Orri is going for more than €3/kg. The Italian season may end earlier than expected. Greece is seeing good demand, but they have very little varietal diversity compared to Spain and Italy. There has been a drop in prices of Novas. In France a different picture emerges with fluid sales. The second half of the citrus campaign is well underway. The French market is seeing Tango Gold, Nadorcott, Orri and Murcot mostly from Spain with a little supply from Portugal.

The strikes and rainy weather in southern Spain and Portugal are causing difficulty with some delays. In the Netherlands importers are warning to avoid excessive quantities of mandarins to sustain sales. The Clemenules mandarin season ended with mostly Tangos and Nadorcotts being shipped. List prices are around 13-14 euros but a Dutch trader warns that a more realistic range to maintain sales momentum is around 12-13 euros. Germany on the other hand is seeing a higher supply from Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Italy than demand can meet. Many traders are decreasing prices to avoid oversupply. Traders say the quality wasn't convincing at all.

Spain has seen low prices for hybrid mandarins, especially in the second part of the campaign compared to last season. Orri is once again the most sought-after hybrid mandarin this year, although it also marks a decrease in its prices: while a year ago it was quoted at 1.351 euros/kilo, this year it registers an average of 0.950 euros/kilo, which represents a 29.7% reduction in its average contribution.

The US is seeing good demand and strong market pricing, but the rain has brought complications for Californian growers. Their mandarin crop is lighter and down between 10-20 percent. The mandarin season is likely to end early too. The Central Valley also has a high disease burden, which could be due to last year's heavy rains.

In the Southern Hemisphere producers are preparing for the coming citrus harvest from about mid-March, with crop estimates from South Africa expected towards the end of March to early April. A producer in South Africa notes that mandarin volumes increase every year with the same expected this season too. Mandarins are currently coming from Morocco. Clementines are expected to start around week 13, followed by Novas and Leanri in over a month's time. Late mandarins fully kick off by week 21/22 in South Africa. Uruguay is recovering from a drought with good rains that are expected to lead to a good harvest in the coming 2024 season. The trees are full of

fruit, making exporters ready and eager to start the season, which will be with Clementines for the US, with the season to start at the end of March or start of April.

Israel: Orri Jaffa in very high demand
Earlier this season the Orri Jaffa crop forecast stated 95,000 tons (similar to the previous year) was expected. Indications are that the mid-season orchard conditions are the same. However, trading conditions are a result of a manpower shortage that has a direct effect on the export quantities, which are lower, to meet the minimum demand from all markets.

This winter, weather conditions are perfect. There were rainy days with mild temperatures far above zero, with only light winds that kept the fruit on the trees. The rains were so great that they broke the rainfall record of the past 30 years, with enough gaps from the rain to allow picking time for smooth trading.

"The season has started with high demand and a phenomenal hunger for Orri Jaffa in all markets," says a representative from Israel's Plants Production and Marketing Board. "Consumers were looking for Orri Jaffa around the globe from Italy to France, the UK and Canada, the USA and Japan. Exports from Israel started two weeks later than the previous season with fruit that could be found in most markets from mid-January. Trading conditions are still good.

"Israel's R&D experts with the full growers' collaboration, keep on searching for new Orri Jaffa specification varieties in order to increase duration earlier to January. We are considering the trend of late hybrid easy peeler citrus in the Mediterranean. Colleague growers are increasing the planting areas of late hybrid varieties. We have noticed it also in the Southern Hemisphere and also here in Israel," stated the Plants Production and Marketing Board representative.

Italy: Calm market with average supply and demand
In the main Italian wholesale markets we find late Sicilian mandarins, Spanish and Italian Hernandina clementines, Turkish and Spanish Nadorcott, Spanish Tango and Israeli Orri. The price range is wide, with Israeli Orri going for more than €3/kg. The market is calm, with average supply and demand.

In the last three years, the area under clementines in Italy has fallen from 25,669 to 24,859 hectares (source: Istat). As for the Comune variety, while the 2022/23 campaign was particularly marked by low production yields and a short shelf life, the 2023/24 season lasted until mid-January and was characterised by good taste, despite the fact that in some citrus-growing areas there was a high percentage of reduced sizes due to the prolonged drought and abnormally high temperatures for more than six months. Prices were still satisfactory.

From mid-January to mid-February it was the turn of Hernandina clementines, the main late variety. The Tang Gold and Nadorcott mandarin varieties are currently being harvested and sold. The season may end earlier than expected.

In the eastern part of Sicily, harvesting of late mandarins has already started, around 20 January. The sizes are medium to small, ranging from 2 to 3 with many size 4s. Production is generally not abundant due to climatic factors that have affected yields, but without altering the organoleptic characteristics such as taste and fragrance, which remain extremely intense. While the harvest usually ends in mid to late April, this year it is expected to be 15-20 days earlier. Producer prices are currently around €0.80/kg for the best batches.

In particular, demand for late Ciaculli mandarins is currently far outstripping supply. "The season was due to end on 20 March. However, we hope to arrive at Easter. One peculiarity: there is growing interest from the industrial sector, which pays very high prices," says one grower.

Greece: Good demand, little varietal diversity
The demand for mandarins is very good but a serious issue is that Greece lacks the varietal diversity of Spain or Italy. Mandarin varieties are limited to Clemenules, Novas, Ortaniques and Page. There has also been a drop in prices for Novas as people prefer eating Clemenules. Mandarin production has been the same as the previous season with overall good quality sizes.

France: Fluid sales
The second half of the campaign is now well underway. Currently on the market are the varieties Tango Gold, Nadorcott, Orri and Murcott, mostly from Spain and a little from Portugal. Sales are fluid and prices are good for this time of year, "despite the vacations". The difficulty at the moment lies in supply, notably due to strikes in Spain and rainy weather in southern Spain and Portugal; difficulties causing some delays. The prices currently stand at 1.50 euros for Nadorcott and 1.80 for Orri, for example.

Netherlands: Avoid loading excessive quantities of mandarins to sustain sales
"The Clemenules mandarin season has concluded, and we are now predominantly shipping Tangos and Nadorcotts. While many price lists indicate prices around 13-14 euros, a more realistic range to maintain sales momentum is 12-13 euros. Additionally, I am cautious not to overload shipments, as I aim to consistently offer fresh produce," stated a Dutch importer.

Expectations for the Egyptian citrus season were initially high. "Prior to the season, there was significant competition from Spanish suppliers in Egypt. This led to a heightened demand in Egypt, but practical challenges emerged."

Belgium: Historic low prices due to lack of demand
Things are very difficult in tangerines at the moment, says a Belgian trader. "There is no demand from the market. Prices are historically low (last year around €0.95/kg at the start of Spain, today +-€0.46) I'm very happy that I had sold pretty much everything we bought from Tango and Nadorcott on the tree this year in advance on contract to Aldi and the rest can be sold to supermarkets at 'normal' prices. All the (too) small sizes we are now disposing of at €0.06/kg for juice, because pitufo packs are only charged €0.80/2.3kg. That's the price what the box costs us."

Germany: Higher supply than demand
The demand for mandarins and Clementines from the Northern Hemisphere is decreasing noticeably. Products from Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Italy are being offered, but the supply is in general higher than the demand. Therefore, many traders are decreasing their prices to avoid oversupply. Also the quality wasn't very convincing at all. For Clementines, the supply from Italy and Spain was decreasing noticeably.

Spain: Low prices for Spanish hybrid mandarins
Analyzing the prices shared by the Consulate of the Valencia Market each campaign, a notable difference is observed in the prices of hybrid mandarins, references in small citrus fruits in the second part of the campaign, compared to the same date last year.
Ortanique is currently trading at an average of 0.242 euros/kilo, reflecting a decrease of almost 26.5% compared to the average price of 0.329 euros/kilo published by the Lonja in its session on February 20, 2023.

Orri is once again the most sought-after hybrid mandarin this year, although there's been a decrease in its prices: while last year on these same dates it was quoted at 1.351 euros/kilo, this year it registers an average of 0.950 euros/kilo, which represents a 29.7% reduction in its average contribution.

Finally, the prices set by the Market for Tango and Nadorcott stood at 0.475 euros/kilo in the last session on February 19, exactly 48.6% less than a year ago, when they recorded an average price of 0.925 euros/kilo.

"This development in prices is due to the fact that early varieties such as Clemenules and Clemenvillas have had a high production, since there was no rain in the fall there were no major losses, and their campaigns have been extended until January," explains a Valencian producer.

"To this has been added the excess supply from other countries such as Egypt or Morocco, which are offering mandarins in Europe at very low prices, since they have lower production costs, which means that Spanish exporters have to sell cheaper fruit in the European market." And not just here. "In overseas destinations where Spanish mandarins also arrive, such as Canada, it is also being noticed that the supply from these countries is increasing, which has caused all the mandarins that no longer reach those markets to stay in Europe, amplifying this situation."

North America: Mandarin seasons likely to see early end
California has a lighter mandarin crop, down between 10-20 percent, perhaps due partly to it being an alternate-bearing season. In addition, recent rains have postponed harvesting at times and that has impacted available supply, even with companies pushing to harvest ahead of the rain.

In addition, in the Central Valley, many areas were hit hard by citrus thrips which could be due to the heavy rains of last year. Those created an environment where thrip were able to multiply in grassy areas and come into orchards during bloom. In turn, many growers have had to spray aggressively to keep them at bay and subsequently packouts have been down and there could be more choice-grade fruit available. The citrus season in California could also end earlier than normal.

Meanwhile in the east, varieties such as Florida-grown Juicy Crunch will also end its season two weeks early in part due to an early start to the season and strong demand for the fruit. As for demand, it's good and leaving market pricing strong.

South Africa: Mandarin crop developing, season estimate coming in March or early April
South Africa's immature mandarin crop is still hanging and supplies are drawn from the Northern Hemisphere. "We're getting mandarins from Morocco and they're looking beautiful," says a retail buyer.

The South African citrus industry has only just embarked on collating mandarin production figures to calculate the new season's crop estimate (made public in March or April).

"Mandarin volumes climb every year with all of the new orchards, and this year will probably be no different," says a technical manager at a citrus enterprise. "In a month the mandarin picture will be much clearer than at the moment."

High temperatures the country over could result in higher incidences of sunburn, but in their orchards in Limpopo and Mpumalanga they've not seen noticeable sun damage, he says. Clementines start around week 13, followed by Novas and Leanri in over a month's time. Late mandarins fully kick off by week 21/22.

"With South African soft citrus we believe this will be a good season ahead. The Moroccan season will finish early and the Peruvian season look to be down in volume at the start, this should help the RSA season to start in a good market."

Uruguay: Looking forward to good 2024 harvest
The citrus industry in Uruguay is recovering from the drought with good rains that will lead to a good harvest in the coming 2024 season. They are seeing positive demand from the US market and hope to provide good medium sized Mandarins to that key market. The 16% tariff for Mandarins in the EU and UK will likely have an impact in volumes from Uruguay to that market. The trees are full with fruit making exporters ready and eager to start the season, which will be with Clementines for the US, with the season to start at the end of March or start of April.

Peru: Looking to recovery in 2024 season
Peru's mandarin season is developing very slowly at the moment because of the production of early varieties that has fallen due to weather problems last year, says the industry body ProCitrus. "However, the production of mid-season and late varieties has been recovering; this year it is expected to have a recovery of 8% compared to the previous year. On the other hand, the export of Tahiti Limes has also been growing and this year we will exceed 35,000 tons of exports of this product."

"The weather conditions are good at this time and it is expected that the cold weather will arrive in time to have a good citrus campaign. Last year, Peru had an exported volume of citrus fruits of 255,000 tons in all its categories of citrus fruits. This year, the exported volume is expected to reach 275,000 tons," notes Peru's ProCitrus.

Next week's topic: Cucumbers