Madagascan litchi season kicks off

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Madagascan litchi season kicks off

Madagascar's litchi export campaign started earlier this week with good volumes due to go on the water from Friday (Nov. 21). Madagascan litchis pic 2 sq

Speaking with, the country's Society of Commerce, Representation and Investment (SCRIMAD)  managing director Simon Rakotondrahova said approximately 17,000 metric tons (MT) of the fruit had been loaded onto commercial reefers that were expected to leave the port of Toamasina at the end of the week.

En route to Belgium to supply the European markets of France, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K., the 2014 Madagascan season has produced good volumes, slightly up on last year.

"It has been an extremely busy few days loading the litchis at the port and getting everything ready to go for transportation to Europe, but everything has gone very well so far and although there are many tired workers, everyone is happy," Rakotondrahova said.

"The weather has been kind to us and we do not expect any problems with the schedule so the timetable should be respected. Each of the reefer vessels is loaded with around 7,000 pallets each and that takes a lot of work.

"The exact date of arrival is not yet fixed because it depends on factors like sea traffic and weather conditions along the way, but usually the fruit will take between 21 and 22 days to reach Europe from Madagascar.

Although European consumers 'love the Madagascan litchi', according to Rakotondrahova, he would like to explore new markets in the likes of the Gulf countries, U.S. and Canada to absorb more production of the exotic fruit.

"In the beginning in the 1960s when Madagascar first started exporting litchis the quantity was less than one metric ton and today we are exporting around 17,000 MT so great progress has been made over the years.

"But I think we could do much more. I would like to see the opening of new markets elsewhere in the world and not just in Europe, because the demand is there and Madagascar is in a position to take advantage of that.

"However, this would need much more work to set up trade and make sure we fulfill all of the requirements of an importing country like the U.S. or Canada, but I believe we could do it because we have the production potential."

Litchi quality this season is good, but not exceptional. Earlier in the growing season Madagascar has some rainy periods during July and August which slightly affected the fruit’s potential, but overall the standard is 'more than satisfactory'.

"I am very pleased with the results of this season but Madagascar produces a lot more litchis than it supplies today. There is a big chance for us to go into the open market and I'd like to see us working towards setting up agreements with importers to regulate the frequency of the supply of litchis to different market.

"Madagascar exports less today than it can grow and at the moment there is no market for the balance. The domestic market is not able to take all the difference between the production and exportation and it means there is a lot of product which is available.

"It means the product is not commercialized as much as it could be and that is a pity."

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