Morocco’s early finish means market is ready for soft citrus imports

| 3 May 2023

Overview of citrus from Morocco in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on May 3, 2023. 

Arrivals of imported soft citrus begin this week, starting with fruit from Peru. Andres Haloua of World Fresh Produce Inc. says Peru, which expects an overall volume similar to last year, has begun shipping the Primosole and Satsumas varieties, while Uruguay has also begun to ship, and that fruit should arrive by the end of May. At about the same time, shipments will also arrive from Chile, which should have about 30 percent more in overall volume over last year, and South Africa, which should have 15 percent more volume over 2022.

It’s been an unusual season in soft citrus. California continues to go strong with shipments, even with the rains it had earlier this season, and it’s likely that fruit may stay in the market through May even possibly early June. “California is moving their fruit fast and there will be a need for new fresh fruit coming in from the Southern hemisphere,” says Haloua.

What is unusual though is Morocco as a sourcing region for soft citrus. “Morocco ended its season abruptly,” says Michel Matouk of World Fresh Produce Inc. Last year at this time, the company was still moving large volumes of Moroccan citrus all the way through May and this year it finished the last week of April. Both Spain and Morocco continue to be affected by drought and that in turn created a vacuum of soft citrus supplies. “Other markets were really hungry for Moroccan fruit,” says Patrick Haines of World Fresh Produce Inc.

all commodities volumes 3

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

2023 demand

As for demand, last year it was much stronger for imported soft citrus. “The demand is there though and the market is pretty healthy right now but it’s nothing compared to last year,” says Haloua. “Overall the market is seeing less import availability in soft citrus without Morocco being here.” That said, retailers are also reporting that inflation is affecting demand for mandarins. “If they’re not promoted, it’s hard for them to get traction because consumers look for other products that might be cheaper,” says Haloua.

All of this means that currently, the pricing is stable. “Right now the only fruit on the market is from California so you have a pretty good balance between the availability of fruit from California and demand. Demand hasn’t been spectacular but there’s also not an excess of fruit so it’s been balanced,” says Haines, noting that consumers are price-oriented so demand for soft citrus will be pushed by ads. “We expect demand will continue to be stable but as California drops off over the course of the next month and imports start coming in, there may be an imbalance for a few weeks.”

Matouk notes that ocean freight is also coming back to more normal flow and pricing compared to last year which he says will help this season’s movement.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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