Optimism Abounds: Argentinian Lemon Traders Anticipate a Promising Upcoming Season

Fresh Lemon
Published Mar 26, 2024
Due to favorable weather conditions and strategic market positioning, Argentina is expected to experience a promising lemon season. The USDA Citrus Annual Report predicts a 3% YoY increase in production to 1.91 mmt, with Argentina lemon exports expected to reach 250,000 mt. However, the 2023 season was marked by internal problems, including the worst drought in 94 years, a heat wave, a currency crisis, and a 102.5% increase in inflation. Improved quality of citrus fruit destined to the EU and constant growth of exports to the US are anticipated to boost trade of fresh lemons in 2024.

As the Southern Hemisphere welcomes the onset of warmer climate, a palpable sense of optimism is sweeping through the ranks of Argentinian lemon traders. A powerhouse in the citrus industry, Argentina is poised for a promising lemon season, buoyed by favorable conditions and strategic market positioning. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Citrus Annual Report, production is predicted to climb by 3% year-over-year (YoY) to 1.91 million metric tons (mmt) due to favorable weather conditions. Argentinian lemon exports are expected to follow increased production and achieve 250,000 metric tons (mt) in the upcoming period.

Figure 1: Argentinian Lemon Export Volume 2019-2023

Source: Tridge

Internal problems in Argentina made the 2023 season a real challenge for citrus producers and exporters who had to deal with Argentina's worst drought in 94 years, a heat wave, a currency crisis, and a 102.5% increase in inflation, which had doubled the prices of most consumer goods at the start of last year. The lead-up to the general election was also fraught with uncertainty.

Last year, Argentina's government declared an agricultural emergency in Tucumán, the country's biggest lemon-producing province. At the same time, Argentina's fresh lemon exports plummeted to 214,216 mt, with 74,487 mt going to the United States (US) and around 120,000 mt to the European Union (EU). Volumes destined for the EU countries have been declining since 2021, most prominently in the Netherlands. The Dutch market received record quantities of Argentinian fresh lemons in 2021, with 47,976 mt driven by high demand due to COVID-19. Since then, volumes returned to pre-COVID levels, reaching 23,477 mt in 2023, a 51.06% drop compared to the record in 2021.

In Aug-17, the US allowed Argentina market access to deliver up to 30,000 mt of fresh lemons annually to northern East Coast ports. The US market matched and exceeded the record levels from 2021, advancing by 34.81% YoY from 55,253 mt in 2022.

In Jun-23, after over twenty years, the EU allowed the transport of all Argentine organic citrus treated post-harvest with sodium bicarbonate. This decision expanded the authorization to include sweet citrus, removing the prior restriction on organic lemons. In Feb-23, Argentina's National Agri-Food Health and Quality Service (SENASA) implemented strict steps to curb the development of Black Spot in citrus shipments to the EU. Resolution 131/2023 requires additional preventive treatments, including strobilurins, for all citrus production units during the susceptibility period. This update includes treatments for all kinds of citrus, including oranges, mandarins, and grapefruit.

According to SENASA data, lemons dominate in overall citrus exports, with a confirmed shipment of 282,531 mt of fresh citrus fruit to various countries, 220,913 mt of lemons, 35,466 mt of oranges, 25,652 mt of mandarins, and 500 mt of grapefruits. The upcoming season holds much promise for Argentinian lemon traders. The favorable growing conditions, sustainable practices, market expansion, and previous government measures to increase the quality of citrus fruit sets the stage for a fruitful harvest. As the global economy continues to recover from the pandemic-induced slowdown, the demand for fresh produce is rising, and Argentine lemons are well-placed to quench this thirst.

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