Argentina: Lemons no longer dominate San Miguel's citrus offering
San Miguel may be one of Argentina's most iconic lemon companies, but this year the sour fruit will not make up the majority of its fresh fruit supply.
The shift in weight towards sweet citrus has come in part from production at home, but also from planting expansion abroad.
"This year for the first time our lemon forecasts no longer represent the majority of our production and at San Miguel, with production in South Africa and Uruguay added to Argentina, we will have a bit more than half our total citrus production comprising sweet citrus," said the company's commercial director for fresh fruit, Alejandro Morajelo.
"For 15 years we've been incorporating sweet citrus into our basket, but their volume had never surpassed the lemons. This brings me to say that San Miguel, one of the leading lemon companies, is now also taking on an important role in sweet citrus," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
He said the purchase of 250 hectares of land in the Western Cape in South Africa was very important for the company, as the region was permitted to export to the United States.
"To this you also have to add what is being done in Uruguay, which has had admissibility in the U.S. for three campaigns, where we have just finished sending early clementines which have had a good acceptance."
San Miguel currently represents 20-25% of Argentina's lemon exports, and Morajelo added shipments in 2016 would be 20-30% up on last year's 40,000 metric tons (MT) for the company.
"This growth is due to the fruit being of very good quality, the market being more receptive because Spain had less fruit, and so for the European market we've already started shipping and we understand that there should be a good performance for the cargo until the start of August," Morajelo said.
"We'll have three months of continuous shipments for the European market," he said, adding other important destinations included Hong Kong, the Middle East and Canada.
But even though quality has been strong, the start to the lemon season has not been smooth sailing.
"There has been a slow start to the season due to the large amount of rain which until last week didn't allow us to work continuously with the fresh fruit.
"Those rains have meant that Argentina's lemon cargoes have been delayed for the usual markets of Europe and Russia, but we understand there will be normal shipments starting this week."
Summary: San Miguel in South Africa and Uruguay
San Miguel currently has 850ha of citrus planted in the Sundays River Valley in South Africa, while recent acquisitions comprise two fields with a total surface area of 1,424ha of which 250ha were already in production prior to purchase.
Morajelo said 99% of San Miguel's production in South Africa was focused on sweet citrus, broken down into 54% Navel oranges, 27% Valencia oranges, 18% mandarins and 1% lemons.
In 2015, San Miguel shipped 37,382MT of fruit from the country with a value of almost US$30 million.
Uruguay exported a total of 105,000MT of citrus in 2015 of which San Miguel represented 15%. Morajelo said he expected a similar situation this year.