Challenging Weather Threatens Italy's Lemon Harvest and Import Trends for 2023/24

Published Sep 12, 2023
Due to severe weather conditions, Italy's lemon crop is facing challenges, with an anticipated 25 to 30% decrease in production compared to last season. Flowering and fruit sets have been hampered by unusual weather in May and June and high temperatures in July and August. If this year’s autumn weather pattern is similar to 2022’s, it could adversely affect lemon development and ripening. In Q1-23, Italy's fresh lemon imports fell by 22.84% YoY, with Spain, the Netherlands, and France dominating the market. Due to a drop in domestic output, Italy is anticipated to witness an increase in fresh lemon imports.

Adverse weather conditions have impacted the current lemon harvest in Italy and raised concerns about the upcoming 2023/24 harvest. An industry body estimates a 25 to 30% reduction in yield compared to last season, despite initial anticipation in Jun-23 to increase by 7% year-on-year (YoY) to 500,000 metric tons (mt). The abnormal May and June weather, characterized by heavy rainfall and high humidity, affected flowering and fruit sets. Additionally, the high July and August temperatures increased the physiological drop of the fruit, increased the sunburn damage percentage, and slowed down the swelling of the product. There are also concerns that the autumn weather will be similar to 2022’s, leading to unfavorable lemon development and ripening and a potential overlap between Italian and foreign supply.

This year's challenging weather conditions have decreased lemon production in Sicily, Calabria, and Campania. In Sicily, the production of Bianchetto lemons has fallen short due to unfavorable weather conditions. The lack of product has increased prices, averaging Euro 0.80 per kilogram (kg).

Despite these challenges, lemon production protected by the Costa d'Amalfi PGI has remained stable compared to last year. The rising costs of growing, packing, and distributing lemons have also made it increasingly challenging for lemon growers to sustain profitability.

Italy’s Fresh Lemon Imports by Value

Source: Tridge

In Q1-23, Italy imported 9,843 mt of fresh lemons, a decrease of 22.84% YoY. Lack of demand and traders' focus on the domestic market was the main reason for the imports' downfall. Although Italian lemon production for the season 2021/22 dropped 4.91% YoY to 450,000 mt, domestic supply was sufficient in Q1-23. In terms of quantity, Spain, the Netherlands, and France dominated the Italian market in the mentioned period. Looking back at yearly results, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina delivered 87,472 mt in 2022, while in terms of value, these countries took 72.1% market share, amounting to USD 91.05 million.

Tridge expects a turnover in Italian imports of fresh lemons, mainly due to an expected drop in domestic production. On the other hand, quantities coming from South Africa (SA) are predicted to drop due to strict phytosanitary requirements and chain supply regulations imposed by the European Union (EU) on SA's citrus fruit. Despite SA’s lemons gaining ground in 2022, Argentina will try to fill the gap left in the market this year.

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