Argentina's citrus industry is optimistic despite difficulties

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Argentina's citrus industry is optimistic despite difficulties

As the the Argentine citrus export season begins, a slight decrease in lemon and mandarin production. José Carbonell, president of Argentina's Citrus Federation (Federcitrus), told about the challenges the industry has faced so far this season.

Carbonell explained that in the first few days of the season, it already looks like production is a bit lower than anticipated even if the gap won't be too drastic overall.

"It seems as though, from this point, projections are showing lower volumes relative to last year for lemons and mandarins," he said.

This dip in production likely has to do with weather issues that Argentina saw throughout the season. With two separate drought periods as citrus was growing, the industry had to find ways to mitigate losses, according to Carbonell.

"It's also impacting the development of the size and quality of the fruit. When I talk about lower volumes, I'm not referring exclusively to quantities of shipments but also to the size of the fruit," he added.

Optimism for Argentine citrus industry

Despite problems, Carbonell explained that the industry is optimistic.

"We're optimistic this season about the market and we think that we're going to do better than we have been doing in the past because of some slack we have," he added.

Current estimates show that Argentine producers could have up to 300,000 metric tons (MT) of fresh citrus this export season.

To best face the challenges the industry has seen this season, Federcitrus said that its focusing on phytosanitary conditions to boost productivity.

"Particularly with black spots on our fruit that come from pests, these things are difficult to detect. This means we need to intensify our precautions both in the field and during the packing process in oder to avoid any possible contamination," he explained.

Regarding trade, Carbonell said that Argentine exporters are highly anticipating the potential gains that could come from its new free market agreement between Mercosur and the European Union.

However, another unexpected challenge that Argentine exporters are facing this season are exports to China.

"In China's particular case this year, a lot of shipments are backed up because of coronavirus. This affects everything. There are lots of containers still being held in China and that's impacting commercial activities throughout the entire world," he detailed.

For the future, the industry is looking towards market entrance on various fronts, including Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and India. And India is a market the industry is especially paying attention to, explained Carbonell.

Argentina's citrus industry still isn't a member of the World Citrus Organization but producers "operate under shared objectives to promote citrus" and are looking to see if it makes sense for the industry to join the organization in the future.

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