Weird year for Sicilian citrus fruit
“Citrus fruit production this year is quite low, especially for oranges. Producers not only had to deal with the CTV-Citrus Tristeza Virus, but also with a whole lot of other factors – mild temperatures during the past winters, lower blossoming, wider yield alternance. In addition, it rained a lot in September,” reports Corrado Vigo, agronomist and President of the Ordine dei Dottori Agronomi e dei Dottori Forestali in Catania.
For what concerns the rain/drought, Vigo explains that “I have noticed these events are cyclical, they occur every 10-11 years. What is weird is that this cycle coincides with the Sun cycle. We are expecting some more rain in December as well.”
In addition to the weather conditions, there is a series of fungi, pathogens and Phytophthora that, with the temperatures registered so far, spread. “For example, the persistent rain in September triggered Phytophthora citrophthora, which led to a loss of fruit. In addition, in October, there was a late attack of Ceratitis capitata“.
There are a lot of drops of yet unripe oranges as well as a lot of mouldy fruit on the trees. The areas of Scordia, Lentini, Palagonia and Mineo were affected by dessicating wind, which damaged both the fruit and the leaves. “We already expected a drop in volumes, but now they will be even lower.”
“There are very few innovative varieties. Producers are looking to replace the trees (especially because of the Citrus Tristeza Virus), but costs are high. The last PSR call for bids, for example, ended in 2012 and the new one hasn’t opened yet. If we consider that, last year, oranges sold at 4 cents, we can see how it might be difficult to end the year positively, let alone make investments.”
We must also keep in mind that orchard response times are slow. “We are talking about seven/eight years for a full production cycle. Another problem is the availability of plants. In Sicily, we generate around 1.5/2 million plants. To reconvert the areas affected, 24-25 million plants are needed and it would take 12-13 years.”
“Just like every year, our citrus fruit is available on the market as well as oranges from Spain and grapefruit from Israel, for example.”
Publication date: 12/8/2016