Argentina’s lemon supply to remain robust in 2014

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Argentina’s lemon supply to remain robust in 2014

A fall in production in the province of Tucumán will not lead a reduction in lemon exports this season for the 16 suppliers under Argentina's All Lemon quality standard, according to the association's new leader.

In one of his first interviews as president of All Lemon, Romain Corneille told that supply would meet demand in 2014 in terms of both volume and quality.

"We do not foresee a major reduction in exports," said Corneille, who took over as president of the association in December 2013, and replaced Fernando Seoane as CEO of exporter San Miguel on Jan. 1, 2014.

All Lemon president Romain Bourie

All Lemon president Romain Corneille

"The winter frost was followed by a very dry spring which affected volume but improved the quality of the fruit. But so far the summer has provided enough water through good rainfall.

"Even though it's still too early to say, indications suggest that export volume for 2014 will be quite similar to 2013 [when All Lemon shipped 210,161 metric tons (MT)]. We also expect to fulfil the seasonal volume contracted by the companies involved in All Lemon. Fruit quality and size seem to be in line with specifications too."

The executive added tough controls would be in place at packhouses to ensure standards were upheld.

"Quality controls and inspections will be stricter," Corneille said.

"Being president of All Lemon is a great challenge because it's a fairly new organization with a growing number of members since its creation.

"I will continue working closely with all the members to improve the quality controls."

Although Corneille admitted prices and programs would ultimately determine where members exported their lemons this season, the association recognized the production shortfall provided an opportunity to make a careful and greater selection of fruit for more competitive markets.

Already, an increasing supply of Argentine lemons is heading to the Middle East and Asia. Last year All Lemon shipped 22,672MT to the region, up from 18,192MT in 2012. Volume is expected to rise once again this season.

"All Lemon-branded fruit is getting more and more acceptance each year in these countries," Corneille said.

"During 2013 volume to Asia rose by 22% in comparison to 2012. This year the main destinations will be Hong Kong and Malaysia, and exports will total around 11,000MT in line with the 2013 season."

When asked about the opportunities on the Chinese mainland, the industry representative pointed out that Argentina had not yet agreed a protocol with China for lemons but said he was hopeful for the future.

"Things do look promising for Argentina once China opens up because of the market size," he revealed.

In the U.S., the sector remains locked in negotiations to allow the re-entry of Argentine lemons on to the market.

"The exporters together with the provincial and national authorities are working hard to re-open the U.S. market," Corneille explained.

"The next step is the publication of a study into citrus variegated chlorosis disease (CVC), which is required by the U.S. authorities. That will be ready very soon."

Across the Atlantic in the European Union (EU), he said Argentina's fresh lemon supply will escape the increase in import duties from 12% to 16% this year, unlike Uruguay whose fresh citrus offer will be subject to the higher tariff.

"Fresh lemons will not be affected by the tariff increase," Corneille remarked.

"Mandarins are the only fresh citrus fruit from Argentina that will be impacted. For the processing sector, the tariff for lemon oil will rise from 0% to 7%, and the duty for lemon juice will increase from 10.9% to 14.4%."

While competitiveness will obviously be reduced, Corneille assured that Argentina will continue to compete by shipping "better quality products" and fulfilling previously agreed programs.

Despite the growth in the Middle East and Asia, Argentina continues to export the lion's share of its lemon crop to the EU and Russia. In 2013 All Lemon’s exports to these regions totaled 187,489MT, compared with 182,927MT during the previous year.

Created in 2010, All Lemon represents almost 80% of Argentina's lemon exports. The group comprises 16 exporters, with the most recent member – Cecilia Martínez Zuccardi – joining in February 2013.

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