With fewer pieces of fruit per tree, Spain’s Lemon and Grapefruit Interprofessional Association (Ailimpo) expects the total grapefruit harvest to be down by almost a quarter on last season.
In a release, the group said the harvest would likely sit at around 61,000 metric tonnes (MT), but fruit sizing would be up.
“The production area remains stable, and the decreased crop is due to irregular flowering, which affected production variably,” the association said.
“The reduction in harvest is more marked in older fields, while the production estimates for younger fields are similar to last season’s.”
Despite the overall decrease, Ailimpo said expectations for the sector were good given the Spanish grapefruit winter season was confirmed as having the second-greatest volume in Europe after Turkey.
“However, regarding product quality, Spanish grapefruit is a distinctly better quality than Turkish grapefruit, which gives us a clear potential for growth,” the association said.
“Moreover, given the decrease in supply from Florida and Israel, Spanish grapefruit has clearly become a leading and essential source in the EU for meeting demand.”
In the 2016-17 season the majority of Spanish grapefruit was sent to Germany and France, representing 50 per cent of total sales at 31,000MT.
A small amount of 2,500MT was also exported to overseas countries, but this was a sharp increase amid ‘outstanding efforts’ to open and strengthen markets such as Switzerland, South Africa, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“The domestic market was estimated at 7,000 tonnes, with a slight year-on-year increase and a greater presence of grapefruit in supermarkets and fruit vendors,” Ailimpo said.
“The industry also processed 10,000 tonnes, absorbing the lowest-quality fruit.”
Last week Ailimpo announced an updated lemon forecast for the 2017-18 season of 1,115,000 metric tons (MT), representing a marginal uptick on its initial July estimate and a 3.7 per cent decline year-on-year.
Fino lemon volumes are expected to increase 12 per cent to 907,000MT due to new plantings entering into production.
The Verna variety, however, has an estimated decrease of 40 per cent due to high temperatures that affected flowering in May and June, with an expected production of 208,000MT.
“Nevertheless, there has been significant flowering in September in late-blossoming crops, and the volume available for harvest in the summer months will be quantified in Ailimpo’s next forecast report,” the group said.
The Fino lemon season started in the last week of September with harvest and export activity to develop gradually during October.
Weather-related issues may result in limited availability of commercial size lemon during the start of the season, Ailimpo said.
With these figures for the 2017-18 season, the association said Spain would continue to strengthen its commercial position in the EU with a market share of over 80 per cent.
“The overall figure of lemon production in Spain of over one million tonnes will allow the sector to continue reinforcing its export volume to EU markets this season,” it said.
“It will also allow for satisfying growing demand from the domestic market and reintroducing exports to overseas markets outside of the EU, such as the Middle East, Canada, and Brazil, increasing the diversification of markets started by the export sector years ago.
“Moreover, this harvest volume may allow for normal activity in the processing of lemon, in which Spain ranks 2nd in the world, and which plays a key role in regulating supply and market balance.”