(Fresh Plaza) Marketing year 2011/2012 Italian citrus fruit production is forecast to reach 3.6 MMT, up 11 percent from the previous year. This forecast anticipates a 16-percent increase in orange production to 2.3 MMT, a 7-percent increase in lemons, and little increase (3 percent) in the production of easy peelers.
Citrus is largely cultivated in southern Italy (Sicily, Calabria, Apulia, Basilicata, Sardinia, Campania) and to a minor extent in some areas of few central (Tuscany and Latium) and northern (Liguria) Italy. During the last 10 years, total citrus area has slightly declined mainly due to farmers abandoning the orchards or replacing citrus with more profitable crops, particularly in Sicily. Even so, there has been an increase in clementines area, little change in grapefruit area, and a decrease
in other species.
In the last decades, Italian citrus producers have been losing competitiveness on both the foreign and domestic markets. Lack of organization, small farm size, increasing input costs, and strong competition from other Mediterranean countries, such as Spain, Egypt, and Turkey, have gradually eroded the Italian share of the world, EU, and domestic markets. Moreover, the Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV) has increasingly spread over the south of Italy forcing many farmers to replace their
orchards with new resistant varieties.
MY 2011/12 Italian citrus fruit production is forecast to reach 3.6 MMT, up 11 percent from previous year. The forecast anticipates a 16-percent increase in orange production to 2.3 MMT, a 7-percent increase in lemons, and little increase (3 percent) in the production of easy peelers.
Italy produces around 4 percent of the world’s orange crop and 37 percent of EU-27’s production. A large part of Italian orange production consists of the “blood” varieties, planted chiefly in Sicily and Calabria and used mainly for fresh consumption. The main orange varieties cultivated in Italy: Pigmented (red) oranges: Tarocco (T.comune, T.galici, T.gallo, T.scirè, T.nucellare etc.), Moro (M.comune or M.nucellare), Sanguinello (S. moscato cuscunà and S. moscato nucellare), Sanguigno; Blond oranges: Ovale or Calabrese and Biondo comune; and Navel oranges: Navelina, Washington navel.
Moreover, two specific varieties are traded as EU recognized Geographical Indications: the Ribera Orange variety (blond) is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) while the blood orange is a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).
MY 2011/12 Italian orange production is expected to be at about 2.3 MMT, close to the 2009 harvest and significantly higher (+16 percent) than the previous year. According to industry estimates, the crop in Sicily and Calabria (the two main Italian producing regions) will be abundant due to rotational bearing, which creates wide cyclical swings in yields. In fact, MY 2011/12 is a higher quantity year in this cycle. Moreover, experts report the quality to be good due to high brix degree levels and to lack of disease and insect damage. Fruit size is significantly lower for oranges harvested from November to January due to higher yields and to the drought that hit Italy over the summer. However, abundant rains occurred in late October and November will likely positively affect the fruit size of varieties harvested from February on. As for the beginning of MY 2011/12, the size of almost 80 percent of the production is below the 76 mm size and farm gate price fluctuates around 0.2 €/kg (larger sizes are sold at 0.30-0.35 €/kg). Farmers will likely try to sell part of this small-size production through targeted campaigns in foreign markets. However, a large portion of this crop will be destined to the processing industry. According to estimates, around 400,000 MT of oranges will be processed in MY 2011/12. The cultivated area is not expected to decrease substantially.
Despite every year around 5 percent of the farms cultivating oranges shift to other crops or abandon the fields, other farms are trying to invest their private capital in new innovative and advanced orchards – by planting fruit root stocks tolerant of tristeza, increasing in the mechanization, adopting micro-irrigation, sub-irrigation and fertigation, and so on) to compete with international competitors.