Argentine citriculture (*)

During the period of 1985-1990 the exportation of citrus sharply increased, the sector grew and the production of the main four citric fruits increased. The period 1991-1997 registers an unequal evolution in these crops, with stagnation in the production of orange, mandarin and grapefruit, and a considerable growing in the production of lemon. 

The exports of orange have suffered light fluctuations, the mandarin exports considerably increased during 1991 and 1992 but then they dropped, the grapefruit exports went back by 40% and the exports of lemon increased by a 250%. Argentine has become the first world exporter of lemon, known by its quality in the international market and the citrus producer number eight of the world.

 The citrus production is located in the provinces of NOA (Jujuy, Salta and Tucuman) and NEA, with a 43,7% and a 42,2% of production, respectively. The rest corresponds to the province of Buenos Aires (3%) and other provinces.

 Production of citrus (tons) 

CROP 1984/85 1990/91 1996/97
Lemon 460,000 656,000 871,139
Mandarin 283,500 346,300 409,534
Orange 620,800 773,900 840,978
Grapefruit 173,700 203,900 229,195

 Source: Dirección de Economía Agraria, SAGPyA

 Destination of the production (tons) 

CROP INDUSTRY DOMESTIC MARKET EXPORTATION OF FRESH FRUIT TOTAL
Lemon 580,000 115,627 175,512 871,139
Mandarin 30,000 341,091 38,443 409,534
Orange 130,000 608,900 102,337 840,978
Grapefruit 25,000 173,858 30,337 229,195
Total 765,000 1,239,476 346,370 2,350,846

 Source: INTA

 Domestic market consumption of fresh fruit 

The fresh fruit consumption continues to be the main destination of the oranges and mandarins produced in the Litoral region. The problems of quality of the harvested fruit have determined the need to send to industry an increasing quantity of orange and mandarin. The price paid to the producer in this case is lower than the price paid for fresh products. Nowadays, the price for the fresh fruit market is itself low and in many cases, the price paid by the industry sector does not justify the harvesting. 

The commercialization of fresh products has peculiar characteristics. First, the appearance of varieties of greater preference to the producer results in a smaller demand of other varieties, resulting in a drop of prices. The producer of Murcott mandarin gets paid a 100% more than the producer of ordinary mandarin. Although, many producers have adopted the news varieties, many continue to produce varieties that are less profitable. 

The reality is much more complex, because the demand is more selective with respect to quality and because the mentioned climatic conditions have originated serious problems of quality. In the domestic market, citrus of different origins compete, and the Department of Agriculture of the United States tries to introduce products from Florida to it (this has yet not happened because of phitosanitary reasons). 

The lack of promotion of the consumption of fresh products has as a counterpart an important investment in publicity of substitute elaborated products (yogurt, chocolate milk, ice-cream, etc.). This is reflected in a strong growing of the latter and a destruction of the first. Recently, in different fields, campaigns have been proposed to promote the consumption of fruits, vegetables and natural juices.  

Exports 

The restrictions imposed by the EU are the main problem that the exports have to face. The exports previous to the month of May were done without the traceability system with no problems, and the authorized lots were normally commercialized after May. New destinations have been also considered for the fruit that does not entry into the EU. 

The exports also face the problem of excess of supply from other countries (excessive production from Florida, increasing production from China), the stagnation of consumption and low prices. The high impact of the cost of transport in these depressed prices constitutes a growing problem.   

Industry

 The industry as an option for lower quality production stops being interesting when de drop of prices is so sharp. The15% of the orange, the 11% of the grapefruit, the 7% of the mandarin and the 66% of the lemon produced in the country are sent to industry. 

The production of concentrated citrus juice has been stable since 1990 (fluctuating 10% +/-) with a production of 50,600 tons in 1997 (the greatest of the decade). The by-products of this industry are essential oils, frozen pulp, dehydrated peel and pellets.  

(*) Informe de Ing. Cármen Vicien
Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Pesca y Alimentación