Algarve citrus production up 15-20% this year
Photo: Suzy Hazelwood/Pexels

Algarve citrus production up 15-20% this year

… but producers say 2022 was not a “good year”

The president of Portugal’s largest association of citrus fruit growers said on Tuesday that the Algarve’s citrus production is expected to increase between 15% and 20%  this year.

Despite having hardly been affected by the region’s ongoing drought, José Oliveira denied that 2022 was a good year for the sector.

“We cannot say that the growing season that is ending has been a good one,” said the president of AlgarOrange, José Oliveira, noting that although this season has not been greatly affected by water shortages, the next may be, if there continues to be little rainfall.

In this sense, the head of the association that represents 40% of the Algarve’s citrus fruit producers said he is “afraid of what is coming, mainly due to the perspective of a continued lack of water in the future” in an area that has been affected by cyclical periods of drought.

José Oliveira said that in the region where almost 90% of citrus fruits are produced in Portugal, production this year “increased by 15 to 20% in relation to a normal year”, but stressed, however, that this increase “was not accompanied by an increase in the value of the product”.

According to the leader, the “generalised” rise in the cost of production factors – such as energy and pesticides, amongst others,”which affects the balance sheet of any company”, was the main reason for the weak growth of profitability in the sector.

At the same time, the lack of water was reflected above all in the lower calibre of citrus fruits, which also came to reflect on their value, stressed the director of Cacial, one of the Algarve’s largest producers’ cooperatives.

Another problem has to do with the drop in demand, which has led to a drop in prices and a diversion of production from household consumption to the industry, which pays “much lower” prices, he noted.

“We can’t say we are satisfied when it has been a very difficult growing season and the next one may be more problematic than the last one,” insisted José Oliveira.

The great fear is the continuation of the drought situation throughout the country that leads him to issue a warning: “If there is no rain in the coming months, the next growing season may be very affected.

“We have to increase the capacity to retain more water when it rains”, defended José Oliveira, suggesting the need to build a dam or weirs in the Algarve hills.

The head of AlgarOrange also stressed that “the problem of the fruit fly represents another major concern for the sector”, mainly because “in the summer, the attacked fruit ends up falling to the ground”.

In the Algarve, this fly appears in the spring and remains until the end of autumn, depending on temperatures, and is a pest that is “very difficult to control”.

According to the head of AlgarOrange, around 400,000 tons of citrus fruit are produced throughout the country – a figure that was reached two years ago, with the Algarve region responsible for around 87% of this production.

Productivity in the south is more than double that of the rest of the country, with the Algarve producing on average around 23 tons per hectare (equivalent to a square measuring 100 metres by 100 metres), while in other regions, production is around 10 tons per hectare.

Source: Lusa