Turkish exporters face an anxious wait to discover what the lemon campaign will hold this autumn following a harsh winter across the country. The season usually begins in mid-September with the early Interdonato crop, but citrus-growing regions in Turkey have experienced winter temperatures of -8oC and -9oC, leading to a marked decline in production.
“Unfortunately, it looks like the early Interdonato crop will be down by around 70 per cent,” said Ayşe Özler of Özler Ziraat. “It’s a serious loss and will have a huge effect on the global lemon market.”
Interdonato may account for just 20 per cent of Turkey’s total lemon crop, but since it is the earliest variety available from the Northern Hemisphere, it has added significance.
“The majority of Turkish lemons come later, between December and April, but with the Interdonato, Turkey is able to fill the gap between the Southern Hemisphere crop and US production,” said Özler. “It is therefore very big everywhere, in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In East Asia, we send to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and, more recently, Indonesia, which has become a huge buyer of Turkish lemons.”
However, concerns surround the likely price of a short Interdonato crop. “There will be very few fruits available, and big sizes too, with a lack of smaller ones,” said Özler. “The prices demanded by the growers will therefore be higher, which is a worry for exporters.”
The concern is understandable. According to Özler, prices of Interdonato lemons have increased over the past three years despite normal harvests. “That is partly down to their popularity,” she said. “So we can’t imagine what price level will be demanded this season. At the moment, we don’t know. We will have to wait until September.”
The price also depends on the availability of fruit from Argentina and South Africa. In previous seasons, these origins have been short in September and October, but if they still have good availability by the time the Interdonato arrives, then competing will prove difficult.
“Despite the elevated prices, demand for Interdonato lemons has been good in all our markets, in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia,” said Özler. “This is because the supply from the Southern Hemisphere was short. This season, we will have to wait and see what volumes are still coming in.”