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Overview of Global Top Fruit Market

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-07-24  Views: 16
Core Tip: The European top fruit market is under lots of pressure. Within the continent, considerable losses have been caused by frost and hail, but the extent of these losses is still uncertain in many countries.
The European top fruit market is under lots of pressure. Within the continent, considerable losses have been caused by frost and hail, but the extent of these losses is still uncertain in many countries. We have summarised the prospects in most European countries and the US. The market is expected to be largely empty at the beginning of the season. We also take a look at the situation in the southern hemisphere, where many other issues are at play.

European estimates point to a harvest totalling 9 million tonnes. That is a quarter less than in 2016. In some apple cultivation regions, losses are reported to range between 50 and 70%. The main cause is in the frost recorded this spring, which damaged the flowers. Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and the Balkans are the markets where the most severe losses are expected. We are talking about two-figure percentage drops.

France: Variable extent of the damage
The location of the growers determines the possible damage. In the south east and west, hardly any damage has been reported. It could amount to just about 5%. Further to the north, in the Loire valley, damage is reported to have reached 20%, but there are also big differences in this region. There are growers with major damage, but also others who have hardly been affected. According to the first estimates in June, in central France (Limousin), the impact of frost ranges from 5 to 10%. In the Rhône and Alphen and Alsace region, the situation is tougher, with damage ranging from 15 to 50%, depending on the orchard. The drop in France's total production will amount to around 10%. Moreover, about 10% of the fruit will be qualitatively not as good.

The availability of top fruit in Europe is limited because the harvest has suffered damages in many countries. As a result, the demand for French apples is high, especially because there is hardly any damage in the south. A trader tells us that the phone is already red hot because many traders are expecting to have to deal with shortages soon.

The supply from the southern hemisphere is expected to be quickly sold out, which means that, from the beginning of August, there should be an empty market for European apples. The situation of the Golden is bad, especially in Italy, where the harvest of some growers has been reduced by half. Although the demand for this apple is good, consumers are not willing to pay for it. In recent years, Golden trees have been discarded for this reason. "But with a bad year for the Golden, things can get interesting," said a trader.

Germany: Big differences in initial estimate after frost
The damage in the north and east of Germany was not too bad, as the losses caused by frost should amount to only about 10%. Rhineland, on the other hand, had bigger losses, of up to 50%. Southern Germany also had it tough, especially the Bodensee region, where production losses of up to 70% have been reported.

Italy: Big losses, but at varietal level
In total, a loss of between 20 and 25% is estimated. The Melinda brand reports a reduction in the total volume to be marketed under the label of about 35%. The most affected are the Golden and Renetta. Other varieties, like the Stark, Fuji and Gala, are not as affected. "We will have Melinda products for our markets, but there will generally be many fewer apples in Europe," said a spokesperson. By reducing the pace of sales, the 2016 season should last until around 20 November.

Losses are also reported in Trentino-South Tyrol, although there are major differences depending on the variety. For the Golden Delicious, a significant drop is expected, while the Gala harvest will remain at a normal level. As a result of investments in the Kanzi's cultivation, the variety recorded a significant growth last season, which could allow the season to be extended until July.

Spain optimistic despite smaller volume
Catalonia, the largest producer of apples and pears in Spain, records only slight changes compared to the previous year. The apple harvest is estimated at 284,790 tonnes; a 7% drop. For pears, the outlook is better, with a harvest totalling 139,970 tonnes, which is 1% more than last year. Despite an increase in the acreage, the volume is falling. According to a grower, it is time to improve the orchards and plant newer varieties that are better coloured and have better yields.

In general, the prospects for the season are positive. Traders expect refrigeration chambers in Europe and generally a smaller production.

Portugal: Small producer
A grower reports that an average of 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes is harvested every year. Last year was an exception, as the volume dropped by half. Compared to other European countries, the production of Royal Gala in Portugal is limited. A large part of the harvest is exported to markets in Europe, Africa and South America.

Belgium: Apples -70%, pears -20%
Belgium is waiting for the new harvest with great anticipation. Currently, the pears of the old harvest have already been sold out, and there are still some apples. Some growers actually want to keep these until the start of the new season, even though they are not sure about whether their condition will remain good. As for the new harvest, there are mixed prospects. The apple production has been greatly affected by frost; it is estimated that Belgian apple growers will harvest between 65 and 70% less this season. For pears, the situation is less dramatic, but a 15 to 20% reduction is still expected. Currently, growers are sorting their pears and discarding the bad quality ones. The pear calibres are on the small side because of the drought and the post-frost treatments. At a European level, it is possible that more pears will be harvested than last season. The Netherlands and Belgium may have less, but Spain and Italy will probably have more than in the previous campaign.

The mood in the Belgian fruit sector is very negative. According to various reports, many growers are highly concerned. If this continues, it is feared that a number of producers will abandon the activity. Many producers blame this on the situation with Russia. Russia had been an easy customer since the late 1990's, and huge volumes were shipped there. When those borders closed, many were severely hit. Additionally, the bad weather conditions of the last 2 years, such as hail, storms, excessive wetness, drought and frost, also play a part. There are expected to be victims in the fruit growing sector and that companies will disappear in the coming years. It does not look like Russia is coming back.

The Dutch apple acreage amounts to 6,950 hectares. For several years, the total acreage has been declining. The Elstar is the most grown variety, with a 45% share. This year, the Elstar harvest is expected to reach 104 million kilos; a 22% drop compared to last year.

The pear acreage stands at 9,750 hectares. The Conference is the most popular variety, accounting for more than 80% of the Dutch pear production. This year, 254 million kilos of Conference pears will be harvested; a 13% drop. The acreage devoted to ​​the Conference grows every year; this time, by 3%.

Poland: Apples -30%, pears -40%

There is still a lot of uncertainty about the situation in Poland and different figures have been published. The Polish apple production estimate is 2.85 million tonnes, which is 30% less compared to last year. The pear harvest is estimated to be 40% lower than in 2016, which means that the total volume will reach 40,000 tonnes. These are the expectations of Professor Eberhard Makosz, President of the Society for the Promotion of Dwarf Fruit Orchards.

There is still a chance of improving these figures. If there is plenty of good weather until late September, the apple production could still exceed 3 million tonnes. Last year, the apple and pear harvests reached record levels.
The estimate of Makosz is the first for the coming season and is based on figures from 52 top fruit growers, 10 experts and orchard advisers. An accurate estimate is still difficult to make, given that the impact of the spring frosts differs greatly depending on the orchard.

Others talk of bigger losses that could reach up to 50%. "This season is disastrous," explains a trader. Not every grower has been hit by frosts to the same extent. There are growers who have suffered smaller losses. Still, there are many growers who are concerned about whether they will be able to meet their contracts. More final estimates are expected in about four weeks.

Russia: Huge supply of top fruit during stone fruit season
The top fruit market is at a critical point, according to a trader. Due to surpluses for many fruits, prices are under pressure. "It is now stone fruit season and traders wanted to profit from that by buying big," explains a trader. As a result, the market is flooding with peaches and nectarines from Turkey, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and China. And although the demand for apples is limited this period, the market is still overflowing with top fruit. There is a reasonable demand for Granny Smith, but a lot of red apples have been shipped to Russia by Argentina. These apples are currently more expensive than watermelons. Argentinian apples cost 90 rouble (1.32 Euro) per kilo, compared to the 15-20 rouble (0.22-0.29 Euro) paid for one kilo of watermelons from south eastern Europe.

Ukraine: Good demand for new Golden
Although the harvest started early this year, the Golden Delicious is doing well. The price is high, but it is the exception that confirms the rule. The Golden hit the market about a month and a half earlier than usual. That was a surprise for the traders. As a rule, growers do not start harvesting until mid-August to prevent overlaps with the old harvest. Apples from storage are often available until September.

Other apple varieties haven't done as well, with price drops of up to 85% compared to last year. "A grower explained that they started selling at low prices after the bad weather this spring. Some growers have apparently suffered significant losses," reported a trader.

US: Apples +2%, pears -1%
Washington, New York and Michigan are the top 3 largest apple producers in the US. The harvest usually kicks off in August in the north. In September, the harvest starts in the east and west. For Washington, a harvest of between 140 and 150 million boxes is expected. That's the new standard since the new orchards came into production. The growers in Washington are optimistic about the season and expect a slightly larger volume. Due to favourable weather conditions, growers have little difficulty in supplying fruit to the domestic and export markets.

In Michigan, the fruit was hit by late frost in May. According to estimates, the harvest is about 43% lower than last year. For its part, New York expects a 12% growth in terms of volume compared with 2016. In these initial estimates, a doubling of the harvest is expected for the Rubyfrost and Snapdragon. The reason for this is the substantial expansion of the acreage. These are new, but relatively small varieties. West New York expects a good production.

After some years, the government is finally doing something concrete. In mid-July, the Department for Agriculture and Fisheries decided to draw up an action plan for the fruit sector. The whole chain is working with it. New markets, new crops and various other options are being looked into. We are committed to quality, profitability and a concrete agenda. This will allow the sector to get an extra push and survive.

Netherlands: Apples -26%, pears -18%
The harvest in the Netherlands will be reduced. For apples, the estimate is to reach 233 million kilos; a drop of about 26% compared with last year. For pears, the situation does not look much better; with a 18% drop, the volume should amount to 307 million kilos. The decline is due to the impact of frost and the cold spring.

The results vary greatly depending on the region or the company. Growers in the south of the country are expecting the biggest losses. Thanks to the many hours of sunshine, the fruit on the tree will have a good quality. So far, no hail damage has been reported.

In general, the US expects to harvest 2% more apples than in 2016. The share of the organic production is growing steadily, and the Honeycrisp and club varieties also record increases. Growers continue to plant Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Jazz, Envy and other club varieties. Red varieties, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Braeburn and Cameo all have a market share. This year, there will probably be more Gala than Red Delicious.

The first early apples are harvested in August; then come varieties like the Jersey Mac, Ginger Gold and Paula Red. Many growers have reserved a small part of the orchard for these early breeds. A month later, the other varieties follow.

On 1 June, 85% of Washington's apple stock was in refrigerated chambers. The state expects to sell these stocks before the start of the new season. These consist mainly of Red Delicious, Granny, Fuji, Gala and Cripps Pink. In New York and across the border in Ontario and British Columbia, stocks are virtually empty. Traders expect a smooth transition between seasons.

For the pears, the situation is looking different. Washington and Oregon expect a 2% reduction. These two states account for about 85% of the commercial pear production. That volume is 10% below the five-year average. There are some differences at variety level. For example, the Green and Red d'Anjou will grow by 7% and 10%, while the Bartlett and Williams see the volume decline by 4%. The Bosc will record a 29% drop.

California accounts for about 15% of the US pear production. The state expects an increase in volume of about 27%. In New York, most pears have been abandoned and the acreage has been taken over by peaches and grapes. On average, a 1% reduction in the total volume is expected.

On 14 July, 2% of the pear harvest from the previous season, about 8,500 tonnes, was still in storage. Traders expect to sell this volume before the start of the new season. This means that the market conditions should be good.

South Africa: Fujis give exports a push
The volume of Pink Lady is lower this year because the colouration does not meet the requirements. As a consequence, the Cripps Pink volume for the East African market, Bangladesh and the domestic market has increased. By late September, exporters will stop shipping the Cripps Pink to the UK and the EU. One month later, exports to other areas will also come to a halt.

The Golden Delicious is marketed all year round. The largest market for these apples is on the African continent, with Nigeria as the main buyer. The Granny Smith is also available year-round, but the main destinations in this case are the UK and Malaysia. The Fuji are finding their way to markets in the Far East, especially Taiwan, followed by Malaysia. Fujis are one of the varieties that have contributed the most to the growth of apple exports. According to official figures, Fuji exports have increased by 7%. The volume of Cripps Red in the market is growing as new plantings come into production. This season is expected to last until November or December.

The Packhams and Forelles are still shipped. For both pear varieties, an increase of 3% was expected at the start of the season. The Packham campaign lasts until September or early October. India, Africa and the Far East are the most important markets. The Forelles are mainly exported to the Far East and the Middle East, but the season is expected to end in early August. For the season as a whole, the volume of pear exports remains similar to last year's.

Chile expands in Latin America
Chile's fruit is becoming increasingly dominant in the shelves on the continent. The Chileans benefit from greater economic openness, lower production costs and favourable exchange rates. This results in rising exports, including for apples. In other countries, growers are now concerned about the Chilean competition.

Although the results in the pear market may be better this year, the sector is not actually recording an explosive growth. The most heard of adjective for the market is "stagnant". Argentina and South Africa are important competitors in this market. If China opens the borders to Chilean pears, that could give a positive boost. The market is highly dependent on the results achieved in the Northern Hemisphere. When there are big harvests in those countries, Chile faces a difficult campaign. If the harvest in the Northern Hemisphere fails, Chile benefits from it. This season was good for Abate Fetel pears. Besides the competition from other countries, another key factor for Chilean pear growers is that most of the demand for the fruit is in the Northern Hemisphere; however, the pears harvested there can be kept in refrigerated chambers for 11 months, which means that there is more competition.

Argentinian exports falling
In the first half of this year, 185,265 tonnes of apples and pears have been exported. That is 13% less than in the same period a year earlier. Exports stood at a record low point. The figures from different regions known for their top fruit production were also negative. This year, the Puerto Patagonia Norte Port Terminal has reported the export of 150,000 tonnes of pears (-13%) and 35,000 tonnes of apples. This declining trend has been clear for several years and is the result of growers abandoning their crops.

Despite the difficult situation for Argentinian producers, top fruit is also imported, mainly from neighbouring countries like Chile, Ecuador and Brazil.

China expects more pears and apples
China has a 40% market share of the global apple production. The Gulf of Bohai, the Loess Plateau, the Yellow River and the south west of the Highlands are the country's most important apple production areas. Unlike last year, when part of the harvest was hit by hail and rainfall, a large harvest is expected this season. In the Henan province, an important cultivation area, an increase of about 20% is expected compared with last year.

Chinese apples are popular in South East Asia and the Middle East. Local production in those regions is limited and the most popular Chinese variety, the Fuji, is doing well in hot areas. Imports come mainly from New Zealand, the US and Chile, with a focus on premium apples. After a dip last year, the market now seems to be recovering.

The pear season kicks off in mid-July and the harvest lasts until the end of August for most varieties. Ya pears are harvested until the end of September. The total volume is estimated to be 5% higher than last year. However, Shandong, one of the largest growing areas, expects a reduction of between 15% and 20% as a result of rainfall during the flowering period. China imports pears from Belgium and the Netherlands. The Conference from these countries is sold in the big cities.

Since 1 June, the Indian government has announced a boycott on Chinese apples after an inspection found a violation of phytosanitary requirements. India is a huge market for Chinese apples, as China has a 70% share of the Indian apple import. It is still unclear when the market will open again.

Oceania invests in top fruit production
Australia’s combined apple and pear industries produce more fruit for fresh produce consumption than any other fruit industry in Australia. Tasmania's apple production in the 2015-2016 financial year increased by 28 percent, reaching $ 45 million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Growers across the state are planting tens of thousands of new trees to keep up with the growing demand. It is the first time in years that there have been significant plantings. Australians only export a small share of their apples and pears, but overall, Apple and Pear Australia Limited says that exports over the first quarter this year have declined by 33%, although that comes after having reached record highs last year.

It is forecast that in New Zealand, apple and pear crops could expand by 10% to 11,000 hectares by 2020. This is largely due to strong Asian demand and access to capital and new varieties. Early reports for the season point to perfect conditions for cultivation.

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