A recent Citrus Industry article, Lemon Price Crisis in Spain by Francisco Seva Rivadulla, reported how some lemon growers in Spain are leaving their fruit to rot in the field this season due to prices below the cost of production. José Antonio García, director of the Lemon and Grapefruit Interprofessional Association (AILIMPO) in Spain, shared his reactions to the article.
“Prices at the moment are at a similar level to prices two seasons ago,” says García. “The cost of production varies from .12 to 0.18 euro cents per kilo. Overall income for the grower in general will be positive.”
Rivadulla’s article, which included information from the Agricultural Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA), reported prices at origin for Fino lemons are 0.15 to 0.18 euro cents per kilo, while the production cost is 0.20 per kilo.
“Global fresh lemon demand remains stable compared with the pre-COVID-19 data for the same period. Spain is the leading country worldwide in exporting fresh lemons,” says García.
In Rivadella’s article, Alfonso Gálvez Caravaca, secretary general of ASAJA Murcia, cites “strong pressure of supply from other countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and South Africa” that are “suffocating prices and displacing the Spanish production of lemons and oranges in European markets.”
In response to this, García asserts that South Africa has not started its season yet, and that there is a very limited presence of Turkish lemons in the EU market this season, due to a decrease in the lemon crop due to frost. According to García, Morocco does not produce lemons, and lemon volumes imported into Europe from Egypt are limited to 4,000 tons per year, mainly to the United Kingdom.
Fresh lemon sales in the retail channel have increased, but this market demands first-quality fruit, García says. On the other hand, he says foodservice (where second-quality fruit is sold) demand for fresh lemons is very limited (almost zero) due to the restrictions of bars, restaurants and sales related to tourism in general. He explains that the result of this is that there is no market for second-quality fresh fruit, so the alternative is to send it for processing.
According to AILIMPO, Spain’s lemon crop is 10 to 15% larger than last season. However, overall quality issues due to various negative climatic events including cold weather and wind have resulted in more fruit eligible for processing.
“Processing plants started the season in September paying higher prices due to the lack of fruit from the previous season, says García. “From December onward, prices went down as a result of the big volumes to be processed. Processing plants still face serious problems to compete in the global market, where it is forced to lower sales prices in order to do business.”
“It will be interesting to monitor the consumption on the fresh market once the foodservice channel goes back to normal activity. If consumption in the retail channels consolidates the figures and in parallel the foodservice channel reopens, we may find record data on fresh lemon consumption,” concludes García.