Chilean lemons see record export volumes

November 11 , 2019

As the Chilean lemon season comes to an end, export volumes have broken a historic record. 

President of the Chilean Citrus Committee Juan Enrique Ortúzar, told FreshFruitPortal.com that the country exported 90,500 metric tons (MT), a growth of 2.5% year-on-year. 

Ortúzar explained that the season’s prices struggled when volumes were at their peak as the industry saw tough competition.

The U.S. remains the main market for exports, with a 62% share. Behind the U.S. is Japan with 22% and Europe with 8%. 

“In the future our focus will be on China. We have our eyes on China to distribute part of our exports that usually go to the U.S.,” said Ortúzar. 

Chilean lemon quality

In addition to quantity, Ortúzar spoke about this season’s quality. 

“It was, in general, a good season.” Undoubtedly, he added, the size of the lemon was slightly smaller than they would like. 

“Fruit size could be better but it’s not bad. If we had had more rain, sizes would have been better”, he explained. 

Regarding this issue, he commented that the lack of rain was a big challenge. However, growers “plant in zones where they have water security”. 

“The challenge today is to be able to anticipate things and better plan water distribution”. 

Additionally, he thinks that fruit size could be improved by leaving the fruit on the tree for longer.

Market perceptions and forecast

Apart from difficulties faced by growers this season, Ortúzar stated that Chilean lemons are very well perceived in the U.S. 

“Despite the fact that there are a lot of options in the market, we remain a strong presence," he said.

For the Citrus Committee, one of the main reasons Chilean lemons are so well received in the U.S. is because of the Systems Approach protocol, which was implemented in April 2018.

“It is a great benefit that the fruit no longer needs to be fumigated with methyl bromide”, he detailed. 

He also spoke about marketing, saying that the industry wants to demonstrate the value of Chilean lemons.

“We believe that there is a good commercial value in supermarkets for our fruit. Importers know that the Chilean lemon has a very good shelf life,” he commented.

In the context of the current social crisis that is affecting Chile, Ortúzar said that lemon exports have not seen an impact. Practically all fruit has already been exported or is already on the ships.

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