Spain Citrus Production. An insider view of everything from the past and for the future

A brief glimpse into everything you need to know about the citrus growing industry in Spain. The success and challenges citrus growing faces in the future and how it relates to the past. What are the factors preventing the citrus industry in Spain from booming further? 

Spain leads the way when it comes to citrus growing in Europe. Citrus is typically produced for the fresh market throughout the European Union and North America. If you look at Spain's citrus production and export figures, you will understand how successful the industry is.

Reports say that Spain produces about 6 per cent of the total citrus production worldwide, but accounts for 25 percent of the total citrus exports. Oranges account for 62 percent of the citrus production in Spain. Let’s get to know more about Spain's citrus production, culture and everything related to it. 

Fresh oranges on demand

Production of several varieties of oranges is for people in Spain who prefer to eat them fresh, rather than processed. If you travel across the country, you will observe freshly squeezed orange juice served on demand in bars and restaurants. 

Oranges are even a big part of the culture in Spain. One cannot help but notice the rows and rows of bitter orange trees lining the streets. The oranges are taken from the trees and turned into jellies and marmalades by organisations.

Favourable region and climate of Spain

Spain's primary citrus growing regions are Andalusia and Valencia. Spain’s climate is similar to that of California. The summers are hot and dry and the winters are relatively cold. The low humidity makes the region ideal for growing excellent fresh citrus produce with few peel blemishes. 

Rainfall in a particular region is one of the most important factors in citrus production. The regions that we already mentioned get about 16 to 24 inches of rain a year, mostly during autumn and winter, sometimes even less than 10. This necessitates costly irrigation.

Water issues and planting for citrus production

Citrus irrigation in Spain primarily depends on surface water which gets transported from miles away. Irrigation water disputes are common within a region. Citrus growers tell us that the annual costs for water can exceed €1,000 an acre. 

Compared to Brazil and Florida, the amount of irrigated land in Spain is smaller. According to some exact figures, planting sizes are even smaller than 7 acres, depending on location. Several factors contribute to this, including terrace farming, soil type and pH values. The yield per acre also varies, depending on the region, tree density, age and variety. 

Labour-intensive practices

Harvested citrus fruits often have a small part of their stem intact. This improves and extends the shelf life and prevents fruit decay diseases from occurring. 

Customers judge the freshness of the fruits by seeing the attached and spread open leaves intact. Such parameters when it comes to citrus food harvest are only possible with manual labour. A harvest worker can prune up to 60 trees in a day, with each tree costing approximately €2. 

Other challenges for citrus production

Several decades-old groves have already changed. They have started growing new varieties in response to changing consumer demands. Many of these varieties have received patents. 

So growers have to pay royalties of around €1,048 an acre. Sometimes, patent holders are the ones controlling the number of acres under production for patented varieties. In the end, all of these lead to supply problems. 

Due to factors such as inadequate rainfall in irrigated regions, a shortage of varieties, and grove sizes that don't meet the requirements, citrus production costs in these areas are high. Despite Spain’s great accessibility to the European market and its favorable climate, there is still room for improvement, especially when considering the potential profitability of the region.