Middle East: pome fruit market strong, citrus a challenge
G.F. Marketing director David Pearce says the Middle East market for apples and pears has been strong since February, while quality and competitive issues have made matters difficult for citrus exporters.
"Chile has shipped less (pome fruit) due to short shelf-life problems and the U.S. volumes are down in the markets. This has helped Africa to increase their shipments by 20% over last year," he says.
"Bi-colored pears have done well throughout the year so far and huge volumes have been shipped, while low volumes of Packhams have been shipped.
"Royal Gala and Red Delicious are in the biggest demand throughout the season, with the imported volume of Royal Galas increasing each year."
He says South Africa started shipping citrus to the Middle East later in the season with exports starting in week 19.
"Navel oranges have been arriving in the market since the beginning of the season with poor color, to be specific a yellow color because of de-greening practices and not an orange color.
"As well as poor color navels there is also a large percentage of soft fruit. The market has reacted to the poor color and soft fruit and sales have slowed because of this - accordingly the price has fallen from AED58 (US$15.78) down to AED34-38 (US$9.25-10.35) for a 15kg class 1 popular count product.
"The areas in the North of South Africa as well as the Western Cape area are suffering with the poor color-soft issue."
He says "to be fair" the difficult market is also due to an oversupply of Egyptian oranges in the Middle East, "all of which is in storage and not expected to be clear of the markets until end of August".
"Egyptian Valencias are selling for anything between AED25-35 (US$6.80-9.52) for a 15 kg carton."
He adds Spanish and U.S. late lanes have all but finished in the market, with conditions only expected to be good for South African Valencias from the end of August onwards. Ramadan starts on Jul. 22 and finishes four weeks later.
"This period is the hottest during the whole year. Many people travel away from the Middle East during this time, mainly expats, which is the majority of the population.
"Many locals like to spend Ramadan at home but just as many travel elsewhere. This means that the buying power will be less during Ramadan than normal.
"It is a big mistake to think that the Middle East can consume more fruit than they usually do and those who try to take advantage of this will surely lose money in the process."
He says there has been an increase in shipments to the Middle East from most supplying countries over the past 12 months.
"This is a worrying trend as the Middle East can only manage a certain volume of fruit before the prices will fall."