Mexican Lemon Sector Sets Sights on Asia

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By Francisco Seva Rivadulla

The Mexican lemon sector is betting on the diversification of international markets and has its sights set on the Asian market.

Oliver Huesmann, director of Fruit Consulting and expert in the Asian market, says lemons have possibilities in all Asian countries. “What is needed is a promotion of this Mexican product so that the consumer knows it better and is interested in a product that so far does not have much share in the Asian market, except for Japan,” he says. “Although Asian countries produce limes and lemons, there is a large market and sufficient consumption of this type of citrus, and even more in times of post-COVID when everyone is looking for a way to eat healthy.”

According to Huesmann, Mexico is among the leading countries in citrus production and exports, with the United States being the main recipient of Mexican citrus. He points to the need to diversify and reduce dependence on the U.S. market, particularly for lemons. 

American foreign policy has resulted in a decrease in consumption of U.S. products in China and the rest of Asia, says Huesmann. “All this product is now supplying the American market and import demand is dropping,” he says.

“The Chinese market is very interesting because lemon is a star product in the diet of young Chinese people,” says Huesmann. He adds that a positive factor is that the commercial relationship between Mexico and China has strengthened in recent years due to confidence in Mexican foods such as berries, avocados, strawberries and bananas. 

Huesmann reports that Mexican producers export to 32 countries, including Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. “Mexican citrus fruits are well accepted in the markets of Japan and South Korea. Although export quantities are still relatively low, Mexico can take advantage of this endorsement and knowledge to be able to increase quantities in other Asian countries,” he says.

“China is a country that in recent years has increased the consumption of fruits and vegetables due to the high growth of its population, as well as imports,” notes Huesmann. “Despite the fact that they themselves are a major citrus producer, the accelerated population growth has the effect that China has to import approximately 60% of its food. The citrus market in China is mainly supplied by New Zealand and South Africa, but the figures for fruit consumption in China are positive, and consumption is expected to increase, which promises to be an advantageous market for Mexican citrus in the future.”

Huesmann says what is missing is for the governments of both Mexico and China to sign the sanitary protocol for the export of Mexican lemons. “The vice minister of the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Wei, stated that the Chinese government is very interested in finalizing negotiations to import Mexican lemons, among other products,” Huesmann concludes.

Francisco Seva Rivadulla is an international agri-food journalist.

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