The assessment for the first part of the citrus fruit campaign: a disaster
The convergence of different circumstances has meant that the toughness of the season will be difficult to forget, particularly for those whose sales have not even covered their costs. Here, we are talking about the producers.
The sector has experienced a December full of mobilisations, which threaten to carry on into January, 2019.
Is South Africa the scapegoat for the situation?
No, it isn’t. From the sector itself, companies openly acknowledge the need for reorganisation and variety redirection. There is a problem and it is not a new one: surplus produce in certain varieties, such as Clemenules, for which some sources state that “up to 1/3 of the current volume, around one million tonnes, could be surplus, significantly affecting the regions of Castellón and Tarragona.”
This problem also affects Navelina oranges, of which there is also a surplus that is more obvious in some regions than others. The figure for Navelinas reaches 1.2 million tonnes, mainly located in the region of La Ribera (800,000 kilos) and in la Vega del Guadalquivir.
Added to this endemic problem in the sector is the terrible management of agreements with third countries, in this case in the southern hemisphere, most specifically, with South Africa.
South African produce entering without any customs duties, which up to three years ago ended on the 15th of October, now has been extended to the 30th of November. And the situation is worsened by the fact that the ships can load their goods in the ports up to the 30th of November and arrive in Europe two weeks later. Goods which, stored in modern cold storage rooms, are still being sold weeks later, even reaching Christmas.
And to give the finishing touches to this terrible situation, the weather conditions at the destination have not supported this and torrential rain has fallen at a bad time. All of this, within a situation of normal volumes for the campaign, but not with high quality fruit.
If we want to make a positive interpretation of everything that has happened in recent weeks, the only good thing that can be mentioned is the meeting of Intercitrus.
The meeting is particularly important taking into account the fact that this organism has been dormant for over a decade. At least, the seriousness of the situation has meant that the different agents have sat down at a table to talk and to look for solutions.
At the meeting held on the 19th, the heads of the agricultural organisations ASAJA, UPA and COAG came together, as representatives of the producers, with the Citrus Fruit Management Committee (CGC, using its Spanish initials), its new chairman, Manuel Arrufat, and the Agrarian Cooperatives of Spain. All of them coincided in the need and advisability of reactivating the interprofessional association as a single platform to bring together all the voices forming part of the sector.
On this point the claims were aimed both at regional and central public administrations, as well as Brussels. Amongst the most urgent steps planned, the following stand out: a restructuring plan for varieties with commercial problems, the withdrawal of sufficient volumes to alleviate the fresh fruit with measures such as transformation into juice for charity, a study of the impact of the trade agreements with third countries, as well as a demand for reciprocity on labour and plant health matters.