The global mandarin market is a mixed bag at the moment. Low volumes combined with good demand for the citrus on many markets have meant the season has started with unusually high prices in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, as well as North America. However, these high prices are offset by increases in the cost of production, and there are concerns that the current economic crisis affecting consumers may mean they aren’t prepared to pay these higher prices. This has caused much uncertainty on the market, despite a generally positive outlook for the season, and at the moment it is hard to tell what way the markets will swing.
Netherlands: Good demand for Spanish mandarins
The Spanish mandarin season is off to a good start in the Netherlands. “There is good demand. There are few overseas mandarins on the market and that is definitely helping the demand for the Spanish trade,” said a Dutch importer. Traditionally, the Satsuma (Iwasaki) mandarins are not quite up to colour yet, but are flavourful. The ethnic target group in particular is enthusiastic about them.”
Harvesting of the Clemenrubi (with leaf) and Oronules has also started. Production of the Clemenrubi and Oronules is lower than other years. A slightly larger harvest than last year is expected for the Clemenules, but then 2021 was a year with significantly lower production than previous years. A normal harvest is expected for the Clemenvilla, Tango and Nadorcott varieties.
Belgium: High prices, but uncertainty for rest of season
Since early October, the first varieties of Spanish Clemenrubi and Oronules have entered the market in Belgium and demand is currently outstripping availability. “For now, prices are significantly higher compared to last season. This is mainly because costs have gone up tremendously throughout the chain and there is less fruit available,” says a trader. “Due to the hot, dry summer in Spain, volumes are lower than other years and there are also few large sizes available at the moment. Clemenrubi in particular has suffered qualitatively from the drought problems. Oronules are, in terms of taste, the best variety, we note. How the rest of the season will unfold is impossible to tell. The difficulties for growers, combined with difficult to predict consumer behaviour, may start to mark the citrus season. For clementines with leaf, I do expect good demand to persist in Belgium, because of the freshness guaranteed in the process.”
Germany: Less clementines than last year and restrained demand
An importer from South Germany says that there will be less product this year than last year, especially with early clementines as well as the late varieties such as Nadorcott or Tango. However, for classic clementines, which are mainly Clemenules varieties, there will be sufficient quantities. There are also no problems with regards to the production, but rather with prices.
Another importer currently sources clementines from Spain and South Africa. He claims that the Spanish product is not yet of satisfactory quality. At the same time, he also purchases clementines from South Africa with good quality. In general, he is able to sell around 100 to 200kg per week. Demand is currently still restrained, with interest sometimes fluctuating more towards stone fruits and then again more towards citrus fruits.
In the organic sector, mainly Spanish Clemenules are now traded, as well as Satsumas. The price of the Clemenules is around 3 euros per kilo in the purchase, the availability of goods is particularly good with a seasonal, normal demand. Spanish satsumas are said to be not very popular in the organic sector and people prefer to wait for the first good early clementines.
France: Increase in energy costs causes fears for mandarin season
The South-African clementine campaign has just ended and importers started the season of Spanish clementines and mandarins two weeks ago. The volumes will increase from next week and the Corsican origin should enter the market in a few days, even if some operators already started with some early varieties last week.
This year, the campaign looks promising in terms of production but marketing is likely to be a challenge. In volume and quality, the season should be very good. There were some heatwaves this year but they were controlled in the orchards. However, the economic situation is likely to be a problem. The increase in energy costs is such that operators cannot make any mistakes. All the merchandise distributed will have to be of impeccable quality. Operators cannot take the risk of having their merchandise rejected in a context where the costs of fuel, energy and production have exploded.
Italy: Big margins unlikely for Italian mandarin season due to economic crisis
Mandarins and clementines are among the most popular fruits appreciated by consumers and there is a strong seasonal component to their purchase, with the greatest importance between October and March. During the high seasonality period, on average, the category is purchased 2-3 times a month. The most relevant distribution channels for the category are supermarkets and fruit and vegetable shops.
“This season, lower yields leave more margin for quality production, but we are in a phase of market uncertainty. We proceeded with the harvest of Miyagawa mandarins with prices in line with the previous year. Now we will have to wait until early December to start with the mandarin-like Nova,’ reports a Sicilian producer. “Consumers shy away in times of crisis, so we do not expect big margins. Last year, on the contrary, we achieved average prices between 0.60 and 0.70 euro/kg. If in previous years the challenge was to extend production, from this year on we have to start rethinking how to save on water, by cultivating other arid-resistant species such as almond and olive trees which, therefore, do not require a lot of electricity for irrigation.”
As of mid-October, the clementine season has also started in Calabria. “The yield will be below the average by at least 20 per cent, with production costs increased by around 0.15 euro/kg due to the use of electricity for irrigation, to which increases in processing, starting with packaging, and transport must be added,” say an organisation of producers. “The result is that we will not be able to absorb these costs on our own if we do not want to trade on a loss. The solid relationships built over time with customers will help us, I hope, to find a balance in this generally difficult situation for everyone.”
As far as the Clementine di Calabria PGI is concerned, for the campaign that has just started, product quantities similar to those of last year and excellent fruit quality are expected, determined by a rather warm weather trend.
In Apulia and Basilicata, the mild weather in recent weeks has caused a delay in the ripening of the fruit. On the early varieties of clementines there is a delay in the start of harvest of at least 15 days compared to last season. The fruit is still green and wrinkled. Heavy rainfall and temperature fluctuations are needed to obtain good colouring. In any case, some companies have started selling the first batches of Clemenruby and Miyagawa varieties. Demand, both domestic and European, is high, but sales prices seem to be unsatisfactory and such that they can cover all production and processing costs. Among the costs that weigh most heavily are diesel, fertiliser, energy and packaging.
Spain: Positive start for Spanish mandarins and clementines with lower supply and higher prices
The Spanish mandarin campaign started in the second week of September with the first Iwasaki and Okitsu within the Satsuma group, that have had a very good demand, given their low availability. Due to the low economic yields obtained in recent years, many growers decided to give up on their plantations of early Satsumas. Then, this year, with fewer plantations and lower yields per hectare, the Satsumas have been doing well, with the demand exceeding the supply.
The arrival of the first clementines came a week later, the first week of October, due to poor coloration caused by higher temperatures than normal. Usually, many companies start the clementine campaign with the variety Clemenrubi, but this year it has been discarded by most of the packers due to its lack of juice and rather small sizes.
The Spanish clementine campaign is progressing now with good prices for all the parties involved in the sector, both due to this year’s smaller harvest and the low product supply from the southern hemisphere compared to other years, as well as good demand.
There are no longer stocks of mandarins or clementines from the southern hemisphere in the markets, having been withdrawn earlier compared to last year as their campaigns ended earlier. The transition has therefore been quite clean this year. The Orogros, Oronules, Arrufatina and Marisol varieties are currently being marketed, followed by the Clemenules, the most abundant variety in the Valencian Community. According to the official figures, it seems that this year there is 10% less production of easy peelers compared to last year. Sizes will mostly be small at least until January due to the hot and dry weather this summer. The mandarin and clementine campaign has aroused interest from buyers since it began and this year’s drop in production, together with good demand, is translating – for the time being – into higher purchase and sale prices. The truth is that the clementine campaign begins with optimism according to growers, packers and traders.
Although the citrus harvest will be lower this year, the consumption will play a key role in determining if the market reacts with better prices, so just as the demand for clementines and mandarins continues to grow every year, that of oranges continues to shrink. With regard to competition from third countries, it should be noted that the reduction in harvests has not only occurred in Spain, but in most Mediterranean countries including Morocco and Turkey, as well as Egypt.
South Africa: End to port strikes allows late mandarins to be shipped
The strike at South Africa’s ports has just been called off and there are a fair amount of late mandarins that still need to be shipped. The season is almost over, soft citrus is now being harvested in the late regions of the Western and Eastern Cape.
Soft citrus exports to Russia have grown significantly and this country now takes 10% of South Africa’s soft citrus, but the largest receiver is still Europe (a quarter), followed by the UK. North America and the Middle East have switched the fourth and fifth position this year in terms of the amount of South African soft citrus they import.
In fact, South Africa’s (or more accurately: the Western Cape’s) soft citrus season in the USA was one of few unadulterated success stories this year and a record number of vessels took shipments consisting mostly of soft citrus.
Around 32 million cartons (15kg) of soft citrus were shipped – two years ago that figure was just under 24 million cartons and in 2015 South Africa exported fewer than 10 million 15kg cartons of soft citrus. There have been reports of a large amount of unpopular sizes (both too small and too large) and together with shipping and other costs rising uncontrollably, leading to some citrus, including soft citrus, being dumped. Wind has also had an impact on packouts in areas of the Western Cape.
China: Harvest delayed, small sized fruit
China’s domestic mandarin season is about to start. Due to dry weather conditions in large production regions including Nanfeng there are reported harvest delays. “We experienced almost no rains during the last three months. The color of the fruit on the trees is currently still greenish. It will likely take an additional 10 to 15 days for the fruit to mature and to be ready for harvest,” comments a grower and exporter from Nanfeng: “Currently, the size of the fruit is still small, around 30-45mm. Comparatively, normal sizes of baby mandarins are closer to 35-60 mm. The weather has been abnormal over summer in my hometown, very hot and without rain.”
China imports mandarins from various countries, including South Africa, Australia, Peru, Chile and some other countries. Reportedly, during this year’s imported mandarin season to China, the arrival of Australian and Peruvian mandarins decreased, while the number of South African mandarins increased compared with last year. One importer remarks: “The production season of South African mandarins runs from mid-June to the end of September and early October. This season the overall arrival volume increased by 15% compared with last year, and demand is still strong. The main reason is that the overall quality is stable and the taste is good. The second reason is that the arrival of mandarins from other countries has decreased.”
North America: Good prospects for mandarins despite damage from Hurricane Ian
Florida is seeing a drop in tangerine/mandarin production following Hurricane Ian. “We’re still assessing our crops. We have groves in all of the major growing regions across the state. Those regions had varying degrees of damage and impact from Hurricane Ian so the loss numbers definitely vary from region to region,” says one grower-shipper.
He says volume has definitely been impacted by the hurricane in terms of early season tangerines, so those supplies will be limited. But as it gets into the mid and late-season varieties of tangerines and mandarins, those crops were less affected so there will be more volume into the December-January period.
The impact of the hurricane was largely due to the high winds. “For our company the most impact we had were high winds blowing a percentage of the fruit off the trees. We had a tremendous amount of rain–up to 20 inches of rain in some of our groves but they are in fairly well draining soil,” he says.
There was also some tree loss but trees overall weren’t significantly affected. “We still have fruit to sell and a lot of good fruit but it’s less than what we had prior to the hurricane,” he says.
While production began in early September, Hurricane Ian put an approximate two-week stop to harvesting and packing. “That was to assess damage and conditions and let any of the fruit that was going to fall drop off the trees so we weren’t harvesting any damaged fruit,” he says, adding it’s back up and running now with mandarins. Mandarin production should run through February.
Meanwhile with limited volumes in the state, demand for mandarins is exceeding supply. “We’re seeing very good demand. The eating quality of the fruit is much better than even last season. We have higher Brix levels, slightly lower acids so we have a much better ratio,” he says, adding that pricing is stronger than last year.
On the other side of the country, California’s mandarin crop looks to be starting on time early next month although volume will be down slightly. “The supply is better than last year but below average when it comes to typical California supply,” says one grower shipper.
He notes that two years ago, California produced a larger crop that ended up staying on the tree longer than normal. “That had some ramifications in last year’s crop which was down significantly–closer to 60 percent from the year prior,” he says. “That light crop last year we expected to have a rebound again. But due to growing conditions and with water being difficult three years in a row, the trees are still recovering, so we’re not back to normal yet.”
This is even with slightly increased acreage on mandarins in California. According to figures, mandarin acreage has gone up in the last two years–in 2022, 67,148 total standing acres were reported while in 2020, there were 63, 809 acres.
That said, he notes that the mandarin quality looks strong this year. “This is the earliest maturing fruit in the last 10 years on a Brix-acid ratio from a taste perspective.”
The crop comes at a time when California citrus has been out of the market for awhile. “We were done early last year in May. And there hasn’t been a large influx of imports so that combined with the great quality to start off the season, all lines up to be an excellent year,” he says.
That said, given the lower supply and the increasing input costs growers and shippers are seeing, prices are higher on mandarins this year. “Even though prices are higher, they’re not keeping pace with inflationary cost pressures,” he says.
Peru: The United States remains main destination for Peruvian mandarins
According to the figures shared by an important Peruvian consulting firm, at the end of the first eight months of the year, Peruvian mandarin exports registered an increase of 3% in volume and 8% in value compared to 2021. The rise of 5 % of the average price of the fruit in the international market allowed this increase in value which, however, as recently stated by the Association of Citrus Producers of Peru, Procitrus, has not been sufficient in a product with few margins to counteract the problems that citrus fruits have been facing at a global level, among which logistics stand out with the rise in freight rates and the impact of delays in the quality of the fruit when it reaches its destination.
In Peru, the production of easy peelers has increased significantly this campaign, but the industry considers the viability of continuing to grow in the volume of citrus produced in the country. “Absolutely everyone in the sector evaluates whether it is worthwhile to continue growing in volume or to see more work on issues of quality and market promotion, because it would not be sustainable in the long term if costs rise, demand does not increase, and on the other hand, supply continues to grow; in the long term, this is going to generate a greater drop in prices,” a manager of a large citrus company recently explained to the media, noting that some low-return varieties could disappear. In fact, various factors have had a strong impact on one of the varieties that Peru exports, the tangelo, which in the 2022 campaign has experienced a 35% drop in shipments, according to industry data.
With figures up to August, the main destination for Peruvian mandarins was the United States, with a 67% share, where shipments have considerably increased their share this campaign. They are followed by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands; however, the European market has not been without its challenges. In August, a Peruvian industry body already pointed out the competition problems that were registered in the European market, where Morocco and South Africa arrive with shorter transit times and where the greater presence of their citrus this year complicated the scene. Specifically, “Morocco used to decrease its volumes between February and April, but this year, they remained until June and July,” the entity stated in the media last August.
From Fresh Plaza