The lowest production of the last decade

The latest Spanish citrus fruit harvest will be the lowest of the last ten campaigns, owing to the unusual weather conditions recorded in spring and the summer drought.

The citrus fruit evaluation prepared by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food (MAPA) estimates a production of 5,968 million tonnes for the 2022/2023 campaign that started on the 1st of September. These figures mean a significant drop compared to previous harvests: 15.6% less than the last campaign and 12.8% less with respect to the average for the last five years (1.1 million tonnes less). We have to look back to the 2012/13 campaign to find a season with less produce.

The citrus fruit campaign started on the 1st of September with a key new development, the imposition of the cold treatment for orange imports to the European Union from countries such as South Africa where the Honeydew moth is present.

According to the latest data available, crop surface areas increased by 1.7% in 2021, making a total of 219,096 hectares. The weather conditions have been a determining factor for this lower production, basically due to excess rainfall during the flowering and fruit setting phases and to the extremely high temperatures in subsequent stages, along with irrigation restrictions in some regions.

Oranges drop by 20%

By product, oranges will experience the greatest drop, with decreases of 19.9% compared to the previous campaign and 15.7% compared to the average of the last five campaigns. Small citrus fruit will also decrease (9.8% compared to the previous year and 9.1% of the average over the past five campaigns), lemons (with reductions of 12.4% and 11.3%, respectively) and grapefruit (13.7% and 4.5%.).

As is normal, oranges will be the citrus fruit with the largest production, with 3,010,491 tonnes, 50.4% of the total. Of these, 75% of oranges will correspond to the Navel group. The production of small citrus fruit will reach 1,953,954 tonnes, 32.7% of the total, with clementines making up the majority group.

A significant drop in lemons

Lemon production is estimated at 918,802 tonnes, 15.4% of the total citrus fruit production, showing the lowest figures of the last seven campaigns.

Grapefruit production will reach 75,394 tonnes, 1.3% of total citrus fruit production, with the lowest harvest of the past three campaigns, after the production records reached during the two previous years running.

An additional analysis by the Spanish MAPA

The Spanish MAPA has informed of a new production reality in the citrus fruit sector corresponding to the year 2021 in which it informs of an increase of 1.7% in the surface areas for 2021 compared to 2020, making up a total of 219,096 hectares. The surface areas that have increased most are for lemon and grapefruit trees, over 10% and the highest increase may be found in the Region of Murcia, with a rise of almost 7%, followed by Andalusia (3.2%).

Frutkia, the new tool

The Ministry will be using a new tool, Frutkia, based on mathematical models and developed with the aim of discovering the production volume for each campaign beforehand in sectors that are particularly sensitive to oversupply situations such as stone fruit or citrus fruit.

Valencian Community

The harvest in this community will reach slightly less than 3 million tonnes. Given that the balance for the 2021-22 campaign reached 3.26 million tonnes, the season could close with a drop of over 8%. A percentage which in itself is quite important. In fact, since the 2005-6 campaign there has not been a harvest as small as this year’s. This reduction will affect all types of citrus fruits, but oranges will be worst hit, reducing the amount to around 150,000 tn compared to the 165,000 tn of the previous year. Mandarins will lag behind, dropping to approximately 100,000 tn, compared to the 133,000 tn harvested in the previous campaign.

The decrease shown in the evaluation is attributed to several factors, one of which is that citrus fruit trees are ‘veceros’, meaning that if they give large amounts of fruit one year, the next harvest will be much smaller.

There are other types of reasons, which have been recorded in this region for several years now, and the most prominent one is the gradual abandoning of the crop land, particularly less profitable smallholdings.

In these circumstances other autonomous regions, such as Andalusia and even Murcia, where they are committed to very large farms, have been gaining ground on the Valencian Community.

In the 1980s, the Valencian Community represented 85% of the Spanish citrus production and now, it barely reaches 50%.

In any event, the reading we could make of these first evaluations consists of the fact that a lower production in the fields could bring the prices up at source, but this remains to be seen.

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