The COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly benefited the Algarve citrus industry with an increase in demand and prices, which is foreseen to benefit the total flow of production over the summer, said the president of the Algarve Citrus Operators Association (AlgarOrange).
José Oliveira, president of AlgarOrange, which brings together nine companies and associations of citrus growers from all over the Algarve, told press that this is one of the sectors that “least suffered from the pandemic” and that the summer varieties of orange are being sold “practically twice” the price of the previous year.
"At this moment, in this last phase of the summer varieties, with the phenomenon of COVID -19 the demand increased and - as production is not much, because it was lower this year - this was reflected in the prices, which went up", he said, quantifying “in the order of 70 cents per kilogram” the amount that producers are getting per kilogram of orange sold.
The same source underlined, however, that "there is still no perception of how the market can evolve in the near future", because "there are variables that can influence" the prices paid to citrus growers. If, on the one hand, “there is little production”, the economic effects “on people and consumers will certainly also be reflected”, which may influence demand and revise downward prices. "But so far, the summer campaign has been good for the sector," said José Oliveira, adding that the approximately 70 cents per kilogram currently paid doubles "the 30 and 35 cents that were paid last year".
For this reason, AlgarOrange foresees “that there will be no difficulty in selling the fruit and that the price can be maintained” until it finishes selling the entire production from this year, which typically exceeds a total of 100,000 tons per year, 25% of which are destined for export, allowing direct work to 500 employees.
"Within the contingencies and difficulties created with the pandemic, the sector is an exception and we can consider ourselves satisfied", concluded the same source.
The regional director of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Algarve, Pedro Monteiro, also told press that “the reality of the pandemic helped” the Algarve's citrus industry, but more so the large producers, because the small ones “sell essentially to the Horeca channel [acronym for hotels, restaurants and cafes] and in street markets”, which were closed during the pandemic, creating difficulties to selling their production.
In order to avoid more serious breakdowns, the authorities encouraged “the emergence of new outlets” and “called for proximity consumption, short supply chains and direct contact between producers and consumers”, but this solution “does not solve all problems”, he considered.
According to Monteiro, only with the reopening of the local markets and the hotel and restaurant industry, which has now begun, will it be possible to restore normality for small fruit producers.