Global lemon market
Lemon fruit

Outlook of global lemon market

The lemon market in Europe is currently experiencing stable demand, with some variation in prices. According to a Dutch importer, the market is seeing good demand for lemons, with prices for extra class I lemons reaching up to 16-17 euros. However, there is more competition from importers in the Dutch market.

In Germany, the market is dominated by Spanish and Turkish lemons, with sales and prices remaining stable. In Italy, despite a good growing season, lemοn sales are flatlining due to lower prices and increased production costs.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the lemon campaign began with a later harvest than usual and lower volumes, but prices remain stable and the sector is confident that consumption will pick up from February. Overall, the lemon market in Europe is experiencing a balance of supply and demand.

Global lemon market

Netherlands: Demand for lemons continues apace
The lemon market is currently enjoying stable, good demand. “You do see price differences between the real class I extra where prices are up to 16-17 euros, but also for the standard varieties prices are still at a level around 14-15 euros,” observes a Dutch importer.

He expects the current market situation to continue for the foreseeable future. “However, you do see in the Dutch market that there is more competition from importers with lemons. With oranges and mandarins, it is easier for us to make up the difference.”

Belgium: Few fluctuations expected
“Demand for lemons has picked up towards a good level since the festive season and the market is in fine balance at the moment,” says a Belgian trader.

“We mainly work with the Spanish Tyler lemons and the supply, although a little less than previous years, is running in line with demand. Of course, in general, citrus comes a bit more laborious from Spain, so prices are at a relatively higher level. However, as long as it is good quality, people remain willing to pay that higher price for it. I don’t expect there to be many fluctuations in the market in the coming period.”

Germany: Market currently dominated by Spain and Turkey
Spanish Primofiori and Turkish Interdonato are dominating the current market situation. They are accompanied by a few untreated Italian batches. Overall, sales are quite stable as well as the prices in January. In Frankfurt, prices for Spanish fruit rose directly after the weekend. In Cologne, however, prices are decreasing. Meanwhile, wholesalers in Berlin are reporting price reductions for Turkish lemοns.

Over the last few years, Spain has continued to dominate the supplies on the German market with a market share of 70-80 percent overall. Other relevant suppliers are Italy, South Africa, and Brazil.

Global lemon market

France: a complicated market at the beginning of the campaign  
Lemοns from Spain, Italy, and Portugal are currently available on the French market. For the Spanish products, the hot weather in Spain has weakened the fruit and its development. On the price side, organic lemon is less expensive than conventional lemon, which is very unusual.

If the market was complicated at the beginning of the campaign, the month of January and the traditional “detox” after the holidays should revive a market that is not very dynamic and increase demand. “Prices should increase from then on and until the first summer lemons, the famous Verna,” according to an operator.

Italy: Good growing season for Italian lemons, but sales flatlining
In Sicily, despite the 40-day delay, the Lemon of Syracuse (primofiori) is in line with the usual standards. The drought first and the strong heat later gave rise to several problems that producers had to face and overcome. The most critical points concerned the growth, ripening and colouring of the fruit.

Unfortunately, there was also a lack of rain and cold for too long, which negatively affected timing and marketing. To this must be added the increase in costs that do not allow for proper remuneration.  For Sicilian lemons, the markets, both Italian and abroad, are moving rather slowly.

Prices are, in fact, lower than last year and, considering the higher production costs, this translates into a very low or inconsistent growth index. At the moment, the lemon is priced at €0.60, already harvested, for good quality goods destined for fresh consumption, with a surcharge of €0.10 for organic produce.

“Lemons are experiencing an unexciting commercial moment. At the moment, southern Italy is in production and the supply on the market is plentiful,” said a producer from Campania. “As far as prices are concerned, premium lemons sell well, at no less than 2 €/kg, but non-premium products are also on the market, with prices starting at 0.70 €/kg.

Exports are at a standstill and are affected by the presence of Spanish goods on the European market. The climatic trend, marked by high temperatures compared to the average for the period, is causing the lemon’s colouring process to accelerate, and this is not helping the fruit’s hold on the plant. In fact, I believe that this year the campaign will end earlier, around April.”

Lemons are purchased by more than 69% of Italian families (GfK Consumer Panel data). Looking at the distribution channels, hypermarkets and discounters have stable lemon buying households over the last two years, while supermarkets – which are the largest channel with almost 12 million households – are in slight contraction.

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Spain: Good balance of supply and demand for lemons
The Spanish lemon campaign began with a later harvest than usual and with lower volumes than the previous season. So far, the harvest shows a shortage of large sizes this year, something generalized in all the citrus family.

Prices remain stable between €0.35 and €0.40 per kilo on the tree, slightly higher than those of past campaigns. However, the volumes of Primofiori lemon exported since the start of the campaign are between 7 and 8% lower than those of the 2021-22 season and are below the average for the last 4 years.

As always happens, the month of January faces a low demand after Christmas. However, the sector is confident that consumption will begin to pick up from February on. Nevertheless, the lower supply available this campaign maintains a balanced situation between supply and demand.

Turkish competition has been very low until Christmas due to the sharp decline in its Interdonato harvest, as a result of frosts. However, since the beginning of January, their exports have picked up with their Lamas variety, with good volumes that are causing a bigger pressure for Spanish lemons in Eastern European markets.

Lemons, along with grapefruits, are the citrus which area have proportionally grown the most in 2022, compared to the previous year. Perhaps now this increase is beginning to slow down taking into account that with the available area there is already significant production potential, in addition to the uncertainty created by the availability of water in the main growing areas. The Verna lemon harvest will begin in spring, which is expected to be similar to last season in volumes.

Turkey: Late start and low volumes cause slow season for Turkish lemon
The Turkish citrus season started two weeks later than normal, so Turkey had a slower than usual start to selling the citrus fruit. Also, the Turkish citrus overall had low volumes in most early varieties for lemons, grapefruits and mandarins, so the prices were not favourable either.

This only added to the season being even slower. Things are looking better now than at the start of the season. Although there is competition, Turkey seems to be stronger in the Russian and Eastern European market, whereas Egypt focuses more on the Middle Eastern markets.

Global lemon market
Lemon fruit

South Africa: Growers wary of sending early lemons to China
The early lemοn season has started in the north of the country, with the first bits of export on their way to the Middle East for Ramadan preparation, a window for the next few weeks before the start of the holy month on 22 March.

Turkey is ending its lemοn season and the first South African volumes should neatly overlap with the last Turkish lemons in the Middle East.

“There is a tremendous pull factor for lemons from China specifically with a secondary ripple effect from Southeast Asia where markets are also demonstrating a new-found interest in this area,” a lemon exporter says. “There is great interest from Hong Kong as well.”

However, lemon growers have burned their fingers before: lemons are very susceptible to cold damage incurred by the cold protocol required by China. Even under the recent amendment, it remains risky to send early lemons at the required temperature.

By around weeks 8 to 12 Limpopo exporters usually feel there’s lower risk of cold damage but this time of the year producers are very wary with regards to sending lemons to China, despite the very strong demand.

From Europe, the switch to Southern Hemisphere lemons is expected to be roughly in line with last year’s switch-over.

A Hoedspruit packhouse manager says the early crop is peaking at 88 and 113 and the quality looks good. Colour break on Hoedspruit lemons has been ten days earlier than usual, FreshPlaza was told.

Locally the lemon market has been very erratic with noticeably more players (mostly from Limpopo) in the market (there has been widespread lemon expansion over the past years).

“The pull factor we used to get from the local market for lemons so early in the season and over Christmas has become more of a push factor at times,” says a lemon supplier. “We had a lot of rain in December and local packing was very stop-start. Prices were see-sawing according to whether there’d been rain or sunshine in the production regions.”

Limpopo continues its lemon campaign until the end of March when the Eastern Cape with larger volumes comes in.

There are reports of zero international demand for lemon juice and hence there will be little demand for unpopular counts (189s, 216s) and specifications won’t have a home right from the start of the season.

China: Recent Covid peak drives domestic lemon consumption
According to a Chinese lemon grower and exporter: “Fresh lemons entered the Chinese market in the middle of September. The harvest season continues until the end of December. The product quality is better this year than in previous years, but the overall production volume declined by nearly 40%.

“Some of the lemon trees suffered frost damage due to low temperatures and spring droughts. In addition, some farmers struggle with plantation management during the pandemic. That is another reason why the production volume declined this year”.

Chinese lemon consumption experienced a boost in December and January. Demand is driven by the high amount of Covid and flu infections, and the anti-inflammatory purposes Chinese consumers link to vitamin C and lemon consumption. Chinese lemon growers are recently targeting Russia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East for export markets.

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France: a complicated market at the beginning of the campaign 

Lemons from Spain, Italy, and Portugal are currently available on the French market. For the Spanish products, the hot weather in Spain has weakened the fruit and its development. On the price side, the organic lemon is less expensive than the conventional lemon, an unusual thing!

If the market was complicated at the beginning of the campaign, the month of January and the traditional “detox” after the holidays should revive a market not very dynamic and increase demand. “Prices should increase from then on and until the first summer lemons, the famous Verna,” according to an operator.

North America: Positive prospects for lemon season
Following the recent rains that have fallen across California, supplies have become tighter and storage levels are dropping. “However, including what is out on the trees, supply is good,” says one shipper. “It’s predominantly coming from District #1 followed by District #3 which is coming to an end quickly and District #2 is beginning.”

Compared to last year at this time, D3 is similar in tree crop. “D1 and D2 had big volume years last year with D1 forecasting to be down compared to last year by 10 – 15 percent and D2 forecasted to be down by 5 percent,” he says. “Of course, this estimate is fluid given the rains and a likely increase in sizing.”

Other global regions producing right now include Spain, Turkey, Italy and China.

Meanwhile, demand has been solid though the shipper says there have been some slow downs here and there depending on weather occurring across U.S. and Canada. (Including the extreme cold that took place at the end of December.)

“We expect to see the usual retail focus during winter as citrus takes more of the merchandising spotlight. Foodservice has been steady and we expect demand to move higher as we get into Spring with warmer weather and Lent beginning,” he says.

In turn, pricing has been increasing compared to a few weeks ago as those storage levels start coming down. However, the shipper says pricing is similar overall to last year at this time, though challenges on pricing include both the continued higher costs on production along with the strong dollar impacting the exchange rate for export shipments.

Looking ahead though, over the next few weeks, rain is anticipated to subside around January 20th as a high pressure ridge is predicted to build. “Of course, it could pick up again when we get into February. That’s a little far out to predict right now,” he says.

“There will be lemons, but it will come down to specific grades and sizes. This is also impacted by the consistently cool to cold temperatures we have been experiencing in California and Arizona.”

Argentina: Hopes for sweet 2023 after bitter 2022 lemon season
For 2023 lemon producers in Argentina, a leading lemon exporting country, hope to focus on input cost savings, better shipping prices and markets that will reward them fairly. The year 2022 was a bitter year for the Argentinian lemon sector.

This was especially due to the increase of more than 100% in logistics costs, nothing has been easy they say, the prices on the market were among the lowest in the last three years. Producers said they lost money.

A producer in Tucuman, the main lemon production area in Argentina, will focus more on organic lemons to meet the growing demand in the US market. Producers hope to fully recover in 2023 after the losses last season.

They also aim to co-operate more closely with Spain to ensure markets are not over supplied and that prices remain stable. Tucuman producers are also in close contact with Spain to meet any late season shortfall this European country might have.

Regarding exports to the European Union, according to data shared by the Ministry of Agriculture of Spain, between January and October 2022 shipments of Argentine lemons to the community market recovered compared to the same period in 2021, increasing by 13% and totalling 120,172 tons.

However, with data up to the month of October -those available up to now-, South Africa “displaces Argentina as the first supplier and increasing its share by 16 points” -as the report points out-, until reaching a market share in this period of 47.5%.

In fact, the South African country has “almost doubled its volumes (+87.7%, +95,500t) compared to the average while imports from Argentina have fallen by 10.5% (-14,000 t), losing just over 11 points of market share, remaining at 28%.”

This decrease in shipments is more evident in September and October, the first two months of the 2022/23 Spanish campaign, in which Argentina registered a significant year-on-year drop of 77.8% (53.5% if one takes into account counts the average of the last 5 campaigns) from the more than 38,000 tons shipped in those months of 2021 to the little more than 8,400 counted this season, according to the latest report of enhanced monitoring of citrus imports into the EU issued monthly by the Spanish ministry.

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Australia: Record numbers expected from some areas
The Australian citrus industry is expecting record numbers of lemons to be harvested in Far North Queensland this summer, as a result of expansion in the FNQ citrus industry, and good weather.

An industry representative said: “We have seen expansion of existing orchards, as well as the implementation of new orchards, in FNQ over the past 3-4 years and these trees are now coming into production. There has been good weather through the flowering and fruit set stages, which is resulting in a heavy crop.”

Growers conducted spot picks from October through to December, with full harvest underway from January to March. Australian growers are hoping volumes continue to grow in coming seasons, to replace imported ones from the USA and Egypt over summer to meet consumer demand, and achieve the goal of year round supply.

“Our industry has made a concerted effort to meet the demand of Australian consumers for Australian lemons in summer and it’s a credit to our growers that we’re now in this position,” said a representative.