Israeli exports of its domestically developed mandarin variety, Jaffa Orri, will be up significantly year-on-year this season but there could be greater competition with other origins in the European market, according to one exporter.
Rafi Zuri, citrus category manager as Galilee Exports, told Fresh Fruit Portal while there would be larger volumes of the fruit – driven almost entirely by a bigger crop in the country’s central growing regions – it was unlikely to top the record set during the 2016-17 season.
“The Orri season started in December, so we’re still in the beginning,” he said. “It’s a bit early to say where it’s going, but for sure there will be more Orris than last year – it appears there are 20 – 30% more (around 90,000 metric tons) and a higher proportion of larger sizes.
He attributed the larger sizing to warm summer and autumn weather and plentiful rain over recent months.
Most Orri mandarins are sent to the EU market, where France is the main destination, followed by other western European countries like Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K.
Market conditions this year might be more challenging than last season due to increased competition with other mandarin supplying countries, he said
“There are more mandarins this year both from Spain and Morocco,” he said. “The starting prices for the first weeks were about the same as last season, but now with more fruit coming from Spain and Morocco, like Nardocotts – as well as more Orri from Israel – we will have to see how the market reacts.”
Zuri said there could also be more challenging conditions in the U.S. mandarin market with California supplies. This season Israel is expecting a 70% rise in Orri exports to North America to around 9,000MT.
Betsalel Ohana, export manager of Planet Israel, said there was usually very strong demand for Israeli Orri mandarins.
“Orri is the real crown jewel in Israel’s mandarin exports,” he said. “It is a very attractive variety that is very tasty and very sweet. They fetch the highest prices, which sometimes reach around US$3 per kilo, which is a very good price.”
He expected prices would come down over the coming weeks as volumes increased in the market, but said it was hard to know to what extent.
Along with Orri mandarins, red grapefruit is another important Israeli citrus product. Zuri said that sizing would also be larger for grapefruit this year, but unlike the mandarins, he said this would limit export opportunities.
“The grapefruit season started a bit on the slow side. Total exports will be smaller than last year, maybe 10% or even 20% lower, because the fruit is too big for export,” he said, adding that more fruit would likely be sold to the juicing industry, which pays high prices.
Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Japan are among the biggest buyers of fresh Israeli grapefruit.