Prices and sales of algarvian citrus fruits increase during pandemic in 2020

In the long term, the concern is centered on the need to look for solutions to the “water scarcity”

Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação (file)

The production and sale of algarvian citrus fruits did not suffer from the pandemic and sales increased in 2020 reaching values ​​that were even out of the ordinary, but the 2021 campaign already divides two of the largest operators in the region.

“In the first year (2020), there was a very high demand, which pushed prices up and all operators in the sector benefited, from the producer to the supplier. In this campaign, the demand is not so strong, but the production was higher and we cannot complain”, said the president of the Agricultural Cooperative of Citrus Growers of the Algarve (Cacial) to Lusa.

For José Oliveira, the fact that the sector was not affected by the pandemic like other sectors, would make it “almost a crime to complain about something” in relation to the activity in these two years of the pandemic. The professionalization of producers and operators is the main reason given by the responsible for an improvement in the “health” of the sector, which translates into an increase in profitability for all.

“We had practically an oasis in the economic difficulties that affected almost all sectors of the economy. It was two years of really relaxed marketing”, he reinforced.

According to the official, the notion that vitamin C “helps fight covid” made prices follow demand” in the first year of the pandemic.

As for outbreaks in agricultural workers, he assured "he is not aware of having had serious problems" and added that producers are collaborating with health entities to "implement vaccination plans that cover foreign workers who are in the region".

The classification as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), the commitment to the brand and exportation of the Algarve orange is a "recognition of its quality" which translates into "great demand" externally and in the fact that "20% of production is exported", alternative to the internal market.

Frusoal, an organization of citrus producers in Portugal, also confirmed to Lusa the "positive phase" of the good 2020 campaign, with a "price increase", but warned that 2021 "is not working in the same way".

According to the managing partner of Frusoal, Pedro Madeira, this year consumption and prices are "substantially lower" than in 2020, but his concern is focused on the "decrease in fruit consumption in general terms", which may represent “some fear of tomorrow” on the part of consumers.

The little production of the varieties that will start to be marketed within weeks gives some hope to operators of being able to make “tranquility throughout the campaign”, but the concern “with what may lie ahead” remains, he added.

Both José Oliveira and Pedro Madeira pointed out the need to “increase the production area”, as the “demand is greater than the supply”, with the need for Portugal to import citrus fruit.

In the long term, the concern is centered on the need to seek solutions to the “water scarcity” essential for fruit production, but also for the main economic activity in the region, tourism.

Both operators consider the funds indicated in the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PPR) to resolve the water deficit in the Algarve to be "scarce", applauding the construction of the pipeline that will bring water from the Guadiana River, but they defend in unison the need to build more a dam to ensure water supply and “region resilience”.