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Gill McShane


Citrus shortage looms in Europe

Prices are currently sky high for lemons and Navel oranges

Citrus shortage looms in Europe

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The European citrus market is expected to experience a "serious shortage" of lemons and Navel oranges from late July onwards, according to one major importer, due to a forecast early finish to the Southern Hemisphere marketing season following shorter-than-normal crops from suppliers across the region and from Spain.

"Prices for lemons and Navel oranges are sky high in Europe at the moment because of the crop shortfalls," Gaëlle Devos, citrus product manager at Capespan Continent told Fruitnet. "The Spanish Verna lemon crop was down by 60 per cent this season, which, coupled with delays to shipments from Argentina and shortages from Uruguay, has allowed South Africa to enter the European lemon market three to four weeks earlier than normal."

Despite the early start, Ms Devos pointed out that South Africa and Argentina do not have larger lemon crops this season, meaning the Southern Hemisphere marketing season is expected to end earlier than usual.

"It looks unlikely that there will be any other sources to completely fill the gap when Argentina exits the lemon market, so there is a good chance there will be a severe shortage in Europe from August onwards."

Indeed, Chilean, South African and Mexican lemon suppliers are reportedly taking advantage of high prices on the US market this season after significant crop shortfalls to domestic production in Arizona and California. According to the USDA, Chilean lemon exports should rise to 47,800 tonnes in 2008, compared with 46,904 tonnes last year.
South Africa entered the European lemon market three to four weeks earlier than normal this season, with fruit selling for €28-30 per carton, compared with the traditional €11 per carton.

According to Ms Devos, the situation is similar on the Navel orange market after an early finish to the Spanish season and lower volumes entering Europe from both Argentina and South Africa this season.

"Prices for Navel oranges are 20-25 per cent higher than this time last year and suppliers are starting to ship Valencias earlier than usual to fill the gap," said Ms Devos. "The situation is set to prevail until late July and from then on, it’s unclear how supplies will meet demand for the fruit."

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