As the Spanish lemon campaign gets underway, the industry is eyeing increased exports to markets outside the European Union
The country expects to produce 1.3 million metric tons (MT) of lemons in the 2018-19 season, of which 950,000MT are expected to go to the fresh market.
The forecast is a big increase from last season, when the country produced a little under 1.1 million MT.
"Spain is set to be consolidated as a lemon producer ... for 11 months", said José Antonio García, technical director of Spanish lemon and grapefruit association Ailimpo.
Amid the greater anticipated volumes, the country is looking to strengthen its position as an exporter on the global stage.
"At the moment, Spain exports lemons to 53 countries outside of Europe ... but the volumes are very small," said Garcia.
"We have set foot in many places, but we have to consolidate and we have to increase the size of the shipments".
He believes this season will be a turning point for Spanish lemons in terms of exports outside of Europe.
North America, Asia in the crosshairs
The industry is aiming to increase its market share in Canada, Brazil, and the U.S., and also consolidate its position in Asia.
Canada, in particular, is a market to which they are paying attention due to the recent free trade agreement with the European Union.
"It is a market that appreciates the Spanish lemons and has an attractive purchasing power," said García.
The trade deal, which came into effect at the start of this year, is expected to drive growth, especially considering that the transit time to Canada is just 10 to 12 days.
As for other markets, the work is focused on promoting exports to places like India, China and Arab countries, among others.
There is, however, complexity regarding the various phytosanitary processes, Garcia said.
Other growers switching to lemons
Garcia attributed the rise in production this year to an increase in planted areas and increasing yields of trees.
"In the last five years, almost four million trees have been planted," he said, adding that many growers of other crops have been switching to lemons due to the fruit’s profitability.
He added that one differentiation of the Spanish lemon industry is that 10% of production is organic, with volumes rising at 1% annually.
The ultimate goal is to consolidate Spain as a leader in fresh lemon exports outside the European Union, he said.