Domestic crop squeezes Spanish clementines - The Packer

Domestic crop squeezes Spanish clementines

12/18/2006 12:00:00 AM
David Mitchell

Tristan Kieva, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Sun Pacific Shippers, says California clementine production could triple within three years.

(Dec. 18) Spain exported more than 50,000 metric tons of clementines to the U.S. in six of the past seven years, but the foreign fruit is facing mounting pressure from California’s growing crop.

“My personal feeling is that at first, and possibly for the next year or so, there will be a complementary effect of the domestic crop that will increase awareness of the item and overall consumption,” said Mike Kostick, citrus category manager of The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia. “That likely will then turn into a cannibalization of the import sector as the years go on.”

Kostick’s comments followed the Spanish Citrus Management Commission’s recommendation in late November that exporters take a hard look at the U.S. market and the potential threat posed by California.

It would not be the first time that European exporters lost U.S. market share to increased North American supply.

Fried De Schouwer, vice president of sales and marketing for Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC, Mission, Texas, said European greenhouse shippers lost about 95% of their U.S. markets during a 10-year period because of increased competition from North American producers.

“It takes a while,” De Schouwer said. “You have the research stage, the development stage and the commodity stage. Once you get things in full swing, there’s no stopping it.”

California’s clementine crop is in that third stage and is growing.

Tristan Kieva, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Sun Pacific Shippers, said the state’s production could triple within the next three years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not track domestic clementine production, but numbers provided by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service California Field Office show that there were more than 1,000 acres of clementines planted in each of the past three years and four of the past six. According to NASS, there were 2,695 acres of clementines in production in California last year and 5,285 nonbearing acres.

Doug Sankey, sales manager for Sunwest Fruit Co. Inc., Parlier, Calif., said the company’s clementine sales are growing at a rate of 15% a year, and he expects that rate to hold for at least the next five years.

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