EU citrus production expected to drop, prompting import rise

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EU citrus production expected to drop, prompting import rise

Total citrus production in the EU is projected down 12.7% for the 2019-20 season, which will likely drive a rise in imports.

A USDA Gain Report expects that production declines will mainly be in Spain and Italy. Unfavorable weather conditions in the region are said to be the culprit.

Specifically, this is due to heavy rains in the spring and fall combined with less planted area. However, the industry overall anticipates especially good quality.

EU citrus production is lead by Spain and Italy. Greece, Portugal and Cyprus remain big producers behind them.

Spanish citrus will likely drop 19% to 6.1m metric tons (MT). A similarly large year-on-year decline of 20%, to 2 MMT, is expected in Italy.

Key export destinations for EU citrus remain mainly Switzerland, Norway and Canada. The industry has seen a significant rise in exports to China as well. Strategic markets for EU citrus include Canada, the Middle East and China.

Forecast for specific EU citrus categories

Relative to orange production, Spain is the heavy-lifter of the region. EU orange production is primarily concentrated in Spain and Italy - representing 80% of EU oranges.

"It is worth noting that after several consecutive years of economic slowdown, citrus farmers left orange production for more profitable products such as persimmons and avocado," states the report.

This accounts for part of the reason that the planting area for the crop has gone down significantly in recent years. Production for this season, as well, follows a downward trend.

The industry projects orange production to hit 5.8 MMT, 10% down from 2018-19.

Stemming from this, orange juice production will be down 16% from last season.

Similarly, farmers in the tangerine category have reduced planting areas. Tangerine producers expect a 17.7% year-on-year decrease.

Overall, lemon production projects a decline of 12.6%. A majority of EU lemons also come from Spain. Italy and Greece follow the country in lemon production.

In other news, new tariffs between EU citrus and the U.S. make it so that Spanish exports to the U.S. may be impacted. U.S. imports into the EU have seen changes in the past year after "EU retaliatory" tariffs on orange juice. Other EU imports of U.S. citrus also declined in the previous season.

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