In Spain, the import of citrus fruits from third countries (in the southern hemisphere) is not only carried out in the summer, which is when there is no domestic production. Imports from countries such as Egypt, Morocco or South Africa continue in the autumn and winter, despite the crisis that has hit Valencia in the 2018/2019 campaign, as shown by the latest official data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Although more than 40% of the production of some varieties is left unharvested (Clemenules) and the sale prices at origin do not even cover the production costs (0.25 Euro/kilogram), large distribution chains in Spain imported 9,369 tons of citrus last November. This is 15% more than in the same period last year and double the amount reached in 2016 (4,104 tons), according to the monthly report of agro-food foreign trade which has just been released by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Delays in the ripening
The entry of foreign citrus fruits in the domestic market (with lower prices than those produced in the Region of Valencia, Andalusia or Murcia) is registered in the peak of the exporting period, and according to trade sources, “the total volume is small when compared to the total volume of our exports.” In the current campaign, there have been delays in the ripening of some varieties. Moreover, heavy rains were recorded in November, which could explain the entry of foreign citrus fruits, including lemons and grapefruits. Thus, the big Spanish citrus operators (in open competition with the Dutch) import citrus at this time of the season to be able to serve all their customers.

Citrus exports rose to 488,371 tons in 2018, compared to 531,025 in 2017. In November 2018, they continued to lead the ranking of most exported Spanish agro-food products, reaching a total value of 390.45 million Euro. The main destinations were Germany (117 million Euro), France (76.71 million), the United Kingdom (31.86), the Netherlands (22.89) and Poland (18.07).

For its part, the European Commission has ensured that it will closely monitor the development of citrus imports from South Africa to detect possible disturbances in the European market and respond “appropriately.” Be that as it may, no safeguard clauses will be applied for now.