Spain wraps up "difficult" citrus season in China - FreshFruitPortal.com

Spain wraps up "difficult" citrus season in China

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Spanish citrus exporters faced a challenging campaign in the Chinese market during the 2017-18 season, with low prices that were mainly attributed to quality issues and fierce competition. 

Alice Li, development director of the Asia Pacific region for Murcia-based exporter Gruventa, said Spanish citrus production volumes had been similar to the year before but noted weather-related problems had led to inconsistent quality at the beginning of the year.

Valencia, Spain's leading orange production region, experienced a cold wave in January, while Seville suffered a particularly rainy winter.

Li explained that while fruit being sold in Europe wasn't heavily affected, more serious problems emerged after cold treatment and a 30-day voyage to China. 

Fortunately, however, the quality of oranges picked up later in the year.

"At least in our case it is like that, and I believe this is also the case for most exporters," said Li.

Strong competition from both Chinese and Egyptian oranges led to a sharp price decline, in some cases even falling to half of the normal levels.

Li said that even good-quality oranges were only fetching RMB110-120 (US$17-18) per box at the beginning of the year in Shanghai wholesale markets, while in Beijing and Guangzhou the prices were RMB150-180 (US$23-28). It was not until around mid-May this year that the market conditions improved and the per-box price rose above RMB200 (US$31), she said.

The domestic citrus industry in China has developed rapidly in recent years, limiting opportunities for imported fruit. The local season tends to come to an end after Chinese New Year, which usually takes place in February or late January.

However, the domestic season extended much longer than normal this year, with some late-season oranges even being sold in May. Egyptian citrus typically enters the market in heaviest volumes during Chinese New Year, and often sells at low prices.

Li said that the Spanish citrus production season has now come to an end.

"In terms of volume, we have exported 50 containers of citrus for the Chinese market this year. We have been deeply affected by the difficult market environment - this year's situation has greatly tested exporters' psychological tolerance," she said.

"At the same time, this difficult market situation had also tested the importers' and exporters' integrity and problem-solving abilities."

She added: "In the future, we will also be more cautious, rather than blindly pursuing sales." 

Li also said that Gruventa last year set up its Asia-Pacific office in Hong Kong and has also recently expanded its business into other Asian markets including Malaysia and Singapore.

The company is also kicking off its cherry and blueberry seasons in Asia-Pacific markets, where they will face competition from U.S. cherries. All of Gruventa's cherries will be sent via airfreight, she said.

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