Representatives of the Italian agricultural trade have expressed their concern over the possible impact of Russia’s decision to ban imports of certain citrus products from Turkey.
According to Secondo Scanavino, head of the Italian agricultural confederation Agrinsieme, Moscow’s decision to extend the ban following recent events in Syria has the potential to force Turkish clementines, oranges and grapefruit in particular into the European market, pushing down prices in the process.
Figures published by the Turkish Citrus Promotion Group suggest Italy’s fears are well-grounded: of the more than 378,000 tonnes of citrus Turkey exported last December alone, nearly 166,000 tonnes went to Russia.
That volume included 116,000 tonnes of mandarins (more than half of Turkey’s export total) and 30,000 tonnes of oranges (37 per cent).
The next biggest destinations for Turkish citrus in December 2014 were Iraq, Ukraine, Saudia Arabia, Romania, Georgia and Serbia, followed by Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
Italy, meanwhile, has seen its own citrus production fall dramatically in recent years. Figures released by Istat, which incidentally do not always tally with those prepared by Ismea (Italy) and Clam (Mediterranean), indicate the country turned out 240,400 tonnes in 2013/14, compared with 344,000 tonnes in 2009/10.
“The closure of the Russian market to Turkey from 1 January 2016 risks compromising the already precarious fresh produce market situation in Italy and Europe, just ahead of the New Year holidays,” said Scanavino.
In a letter to Italian Minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina, he called on the government to raise the maximum volume of fruit that can be removed from the market and donated to charity to 2,000 tonnes.
“We are faced with an enormous volume of Turkish citrus which will spill over into other markets, and in particular European and Italian ones, depressing our prices further when they are already falling. At the same time, we are unable in turn to export to Russia.”