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Pomegranates have enjoyed continued growth in popularity in recent years, boosted by the many health benefits attributed to the fruit, as well as the availability of different varieties to suit the tastes of different markets, as seen in France. This season, too, demand is strong in most markets, but the supply is more varied across the board. Spain is facing a loss of up to 30% as a result of the overly hot and dry weather during the growing season, and some regions in Italy have also suffered from irregular weather conditions affecting cultivation. In North America, growers have had a rather more successful season, despite a later than usual start, and the outlook in South African orchards is positive for the coming season. In terms of sales markets, some have been oversupplied this year, as is the case in the Netherlands and Italy, pushing down prices. This is particularly troubling, as production costs have risen so much than any drop in price eats into the margins.

Netherlands: Difficult Peruvian pomegranate season leaves its mark on Mediterranean season

Pomegranate sales in Holland did not go smoothly this year. “Especially during the Peruvian season, it was incredibly difficult. There was far too much supply on the market. In other years, Peruvian pomegranates often sold between 8 and 10 euros, this year they went for 3 euros. Normally, Peru stops sending them in week 34, but due to the large stocks, many importers went on longer, which meant that Mediterranean countries also had to go along with the low prices,” observes a Dutch importer. “After years of pomegranate sales growth, it was not good all year this year. This shows it also has a downside when more and more players move into this market after years of growth.”

Germany: Turkey dominates the market

In the German wholesale market, the Turkish variety Hicaz currently dominates the market. In addition, Spanish Wonderful pomegranates play a prominent role. Rounding out the supply are shipments from Italy and Egypt. At the time of flowering, there were many frosts in Turkey, which is why the first two did not yield a harvest, an importer stresses: “We were only able to harvest the fruit at the third blossom, which is why there was offered lower volumes on the market.” Overall, pomegranate consumption is booming in Germany due to videos on YouTube and other social media. As a result, many new players want to import and sell the fruit.

France: Pomegranate increasingly popular in France

The pomegranate has had a timid start in France, but it has really gained in popularity in recent years. This is partly due to the arrival of new varieties that are more acidic, such as the Wonderful and Acco, but also thanks to the recognized benefits of this fruit with bright-red arils. Today in France, it is consumed more and more in juices. “Some clients buy them in bulk and process them themselves in the store, much like they do with oranges,” explains a seller on Rungis. The pomegranate is no longer a seasonal product. It is now consumed all year round. At the moment, we are in the middle of the Spanish season, which started in September and will end in February/March, and we are beginning the Turkish season. Prices are around 0.90-1.10 €/kg [0.90-1.10 USD/kg] for the Spanish origin and 1.30-1.50 €/kg [1.30-1.51 USD/kg] for Turkey. These prices are still relatively high but perfectly acceptable. Finally, the quality of the fruit is very satisfactory.

Italy: High demand but pressure on prices

“The pomegranate season is going well. Demand is high and there is great enthusiasm for the upcoming Christmas holidays, but in the Italian market there seem to be lower selling prices,” points out an important producer of the fruit from Apulia. “In fact, while exports are proceeding very well, with satisfactory quotations that are higher than in the past campaign, in Italy there is strong competition generated by the behaviour of many producers who sell the product at very low prices, thus distorting the market and causing, at certain times of the week, difficulties in disposing of all the incoming goods.”

The Sicilian pomegranate campaign was characterised by a certain irregularity during flowering, with problematic fruit set due to the fluctuating weather conditions. The fruits did not take on too much colour, forcing growers to leave them on the plant longer than necessary. Obviously, this is an irregular phenomenon, varying by area. In some areas, optimum production is reported with average sizes. The product’s main competitors remain Mediterranean countries such as Spain. Israel’s production is strong, but above all Turkey, which has a position of production and, consequently, commercial hegemony in central and northern Europe. Producer prices this year ranged from 0.50 to 0.80-0.95 €/kg for the best lots.

In Campania, the current pomegranate season is off to a bad start. There is 30% less production due to extreme temperatures during the flowering period, there is no consumption and demand is fluctuating. Prices are 0.20 euro/kg lower than in the last campaign. “As if that were not enough, we are also experiencing production costs that have more than tripled,” comments an entrepreneur. Despite this, the purchase price of the product is lower than in previous years, demand in the wholesale markets is struggling to take off, perhaps because this item is not considered a necessity.

Spain: 30% reduction in supply of pomegranate due to hot and dry conditions

The pomegranate supply in Spain has been reduced by approximately 30% this year due to the impact of heat waves and the dry weather, and this keeping sales stable since the campaign started in August. “We have already had four months with stable sales, given the lower production this year,” says a Spanish grower and exporter. “It’s already cold and now the Christmas campaign is starting, which is when pomegranate sales tend to increase the most,” he adds.

The dominant variety in Spain at this moment is the Mollar de Elche, the only one on the market with a protected designation of origin (PGI). Almost all supermarket chains in Spain already appreciate and demand the pomegranates with the PGI, and these are also increasingly accepted in other European countries, especially in France and Belgium. Besides the good promotional work carried out by its regulatory council, consumers are becoming aware of the guarantees offered by a quality seal like this one, according to the exporter.

The costs of production, handling, packaging and transport have skyrocketed for all crops, and while some are managing to pass these costs on to the selling prices, depending on the market conditions, others are failing to do so; at least not to the necessary extent for the activity to remain as profitable, and that is the case of pomegranates.

South Africa: Positive outlook for South African pomegranate season

There’s no pomegranate crop estimate for South Africa as of yet, but in the Western cape (where most pomegranates are grown) the orchards are looking good. “Temperatures were more moderate this year, so hopefully this means less sunburn and cracking,” says a Cape grower. In some orchards fruit set was lower, but the early set has remained, which bodes well for the size and yield of the upcoming crop which is usually harvested in late summer, towards March next year.

North America: Late start to pomegranate season, but strong demand and good supply

Supplies of pomegranates are up this year out of California. “There is a good supply of smaller sizes of pomegranates – that seems to be the trend this year,” says one California-based shipper. “The larger sizes, the 22s and up, were well off the last five-year average so they are peaking on 26s and 30s. This started with the early varieties and carried on through the Wonderful fruit.”

This is a marked difference from the 2021 short crop of pomegranates. In 2021, the first day of harvest for many growers was ushered in by a sizeable windstorm, which took a toll on the fruit from a condition standpoint. “Then towards the latter part of October there was a lot of rain and it made it almost impossible for some growers to get into the fields,” says the shipper. Between those two events, volume was down in 2021 and while it has rebounded this year, it’s been more so on that smaller sized fruit.

Growers this year also started approximately a week later than last year. The shipper notes the season typically starts October 11-14 and this year it started with one grower on October 17 while the rest began a week later. Shipments will continue through to the middle to latter part of December.

Supplies of pomegranates are just domestic at the moment with Chilean imported pomegranates expected in May.

Meanwhile demand for the fruit is strong. “It’s been really pretty good, even with all of the inflation. It has also been relatively stable compared to last year and the previous years and it could be because it really is highly seasonal,” says the shipper. “A lot of places in the country do not bring in Chilean fruit so it’s a commodity that hasn’t been seen in six months and people responded to it.”

As for pricing, typically FOBs are not as strong on small fruit. “The 22-count is in most demand and commands the highest FOB,” says the shipper. “Even though there are more 30s and 34s, that pricing is pretty consistent with last year’s pricing–even with the shorter crop in 2021.”

Peru: Potential for growth on European and Asian markets for Peruvian pomegranate

At the beginning of January the new campaign for the Peruvian pomegranate will begin, which will last until May. Last year, fruit exports experienced an interesting growth of 27% in volume, totalling 49.02 million kilos -after already registering a 5% increase in 2021 to 38.56 million kilos-, for a FOB value of 88.34 million dollars, according to figures provided by Progranada.

The country exports pomegranate in different presentations; including fresh, conventional and organic, frozen or dehydrated. However, as highlighted in a report by the Center for Economic Research and Global Business (CIEN) of the Association of Exporters (ADEX), during the first quarter of 2022 “the increase in pomegranate exports compared to the same period of the previous year (50.6 million), was mainly driven by shipments of fresh organic (+174.2%) and conventional (+24.2%) pomegranates”.

The main markets for the Peruvian pomegranate in 2022 of the more than 35 to which it reaches, have been the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada, ahead of Russia, which this campaign has fallen out of the top 3 of the largest importers of Peruvian pomegranates. Only the shipments of the fruit in its fresh presentation to the Russian market in 2021 totalled 7.1 million dollars and concentrated an 8.8% participation in the value of exports, according to the CIEN report, but the start of the war in Ukraine at the end of February halted pomegranate exports – as well as many other products – to that destination.

According to a Peruvian consulting firm, the Netherlands increased pomegranate imports from Peru by 7% this season, since “as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine, this destination would have been the one that channelled the Peruvian pomegranate to European countries from the east”.

It should be noted that, according to the available data, Germany is by far the first market for dried pomegranates from Peru, bringing together 58.3% of exports (in value) of this presentation in 2021, followed by Canada with a 28.4% share, which in the case of frozen pomegranates amounted to 80%.

“As consumers continue to seek functional benefits in their food and beverage choices, the growth in demand for pomegranate is sustainable thanks to the promotion that is being carried out to publicize its properties and modalities of consumption. It is a fruit with growth potential both in the European and Asian markets”, highlighted the report; detailing that it specifically offers it “for Asian markets such as South Korea and China, even more so in value-added presentations.”

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