Munoz Castillo Eurofruit Congress Peru

Alvaro Muñoz of AMC Group (left) pictured alongside Sergio del Castillo of Peruvian organisation ProCitrus (right) at last week's Eurofruit Congress in Lima

Protected citrus varieties could hold the key to improving profitability of citrus producers worldwide. According to Alvaro Muñoz of AMC Group, protected varieties are gaining market share over traditional open varieties in Europe as consumer demand for higher quality and new offerings continues to grow.

There were 19 new citrus varieties registered in Europe in 1972, of which none of them were protected, but in 2014, 77.2 per cent of the 180 new varieties registered were protected.

“When it comes to developing new varieties there has been a strong focus on developing easy peelers with improved characteristics such as yield, seasonal extensions, improved eating quality, better natural skin finish and colouration,” Muñoz said. “Some, such as Tango and Orri mandarins are beginning to show a lot of promise commercially.”

Speaking at last week’s Eurofruit Southern Hemisphere is Lima during a session on new citrus varieties and their place in the global market, Muñoz outlined the work being done by Citrus Genesis, a group of 40 leading citrus companies in five continents created to manage new cultivars worldwide. “To date there are 857ha planted with Citrus Genesis varieties in South Africa, Peru, Turkey, Spain, Israel, Morocco, Australia, Egypt and Chile,” he explained. “This year production will reach 14,000 tonnes and this is estimated to rise to 45,000 tonnes by 2017.”

Muñoz pointed out that Peru enjoyed many advantages such as being well connected to all the major consumer markets, having a secure water supply, a warm climate highly suited to growing citrus and a stable labour market.

“Peru is well positioned to supply virtually every global market and for this reason it’s important that it invests in new varieties with universal appeal,” he said.

During a panel discussion after Muñoz’s presentation, Sergio del Castillo of ProCitrus pointed out that although Peru has a long tradition of citrus cultivation it is relatively new entrant to international market. The challenge faced by Peruvian growers is finding varieties that fill the lucrative supply windows while also being reliable, he said.

Alex Gallagher of leading Peruvian citrus grower-exporter La Calera said growers need to learn from past mistakes such as the overplanting of Minneolas which led to a slump in prices.

“When one person starts a trend it is fashionable but when everyone else follows it quickly loses its appeal,” he noted. “The beauty of patented varieties is that they limit volume growth and maintain their exclusivity.”

Emilio Teresa of Catman Fresh, which markets the Queen satsuma variety developed in Spain, said developing a new variety is a long-term investment, taking 10-15 years. “It’s about staying one step ahead of the retailer – ultimately the responsibility for choosing new varieties lies with the grower,” he noted. “There are a lot of new varieties available and with its unique climate, Peru is in a great position to select the new winners.”