Loss of competitiveness, rising costs and falling demand are at the root of the sector’s problems. Uruguay is in a difficult position as it has to pay wholesale tariffs of 12.5% to export to the European Union while competitors Chile, Peru and South Africa pay nothing.
Businesses within the sector have said it is impossible to continue because of high labor costs and other fixed costs.
Sandupay has already sold its land and packing house in Paysandú after warning the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fishing two years ago that this was a distinct possibility. Other Uruguan citrus companies have said they are also considering going down the same road.
Uruguayan citrus exports fell by 20% last year with mandarins experiencing the biggest drop with less than 13,000 metric tons (MT) exported, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Planning and Policy (OPYPA) .
The industry employs up to 10,000 people in seasonal jobs from March until November, dovetailing with the country’s other fruit and horticultural seasons.