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Israel’s Jaffa Orri Exports to China Expected to Increase

February 21, 2017

At the FRUIT LOGISTICA 2017 fair this month, Produce Report was invited to interview Mr. Tal Amit, head of the citrus sector at Israel’s Plant Production and Marketing Board. Mr. Amit told us that the top priority of his visit to Germany this time was to promote Orri mandarins under the Jaffa brand name, the national citrus brand of Israel. Widely recognized in the European market, Orri is an important addition to famous citrus brands, under the Jaffa master brand name, such as Jaffa Suntina, Jaffa Sunrise and Jaffa Sweetie and aims to become Israel’s top citrus product in terms of export volume. While it is a hot commodity in Europe, Chinese consumers and importers so far know very little about Jaffa Orri mandarins. Jaffa may soon begin promotional work in China, and Mr. Amit hoped to educate Chinese traders and consumers alike about Jaffa Orri through Produce Report.

What role does the board play in boosting the success of the Jaffa brand?

The Plant Production and Marketing Board was established in 2004 to assist farmers in advancing their agricultural missions and promote the Jaffa brand and other registered citrus industry brands. The citrus sector of the board is also in charge of more than 1,000 citrus growers and over 20 packing plants in Israel. Only qualified citrus products and packing houses are accredited to use the Jaffa brand. For example, the brand has specific standards for citrus products in terms of sugar content, acid content, fruit color, and size of blemished areas.

Mr. Amit explained that the citrus brand Jaffa came from the name of the ancient city Jaffa, a famous port city of Israel in early times. Over 100 years ago, the city of Jaffa was not only a major growing area for citrus but also served a key role in the development of the entire industry as the port through which the first batch of Israeli citrus was exported abroad.

Apart from the inherent advantages of Jaffa products, the great promotional effort made by the board is also a key factor allowing Jaffa to stand out in the highly competitive international citrus market. Orri mandarins are highly desired globally, but the quantity available is not sufficient to meet demand. Jaffa Sunrise red grapefruits, another prominent product under this brand, are also managing to resist the worldwide crisis of a reduction in grapefruit consumption. It was reported by the board that the exports of Orri and Sunrise account for 80% of all citrus exports. Another product worth mentioning is the Jaffa Sweetie or oroblanco, which resembles a grapefruit but tastes more like a pomelo. Due to its high sugar content, it is quite popular among young consumers.

Why is Jaffa Orri so highly desirable?

Jaffa Orri is exported worldwide to 45 destinations. Most of the crop is exported to the European market (78%). Besides Europe, 18% of the fruit is sent to North America and 4% to the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years, the growing number of markets for Orri mandarins has allowed the fruit to rank first in export sales among all of Israel’s citrus exports.

The Jaffa Orri is a mandarin orange developed by scientists of the Volcani Research Center in Bet Dagan, Israel. It is easy to peel, has minimal seed content, and boasts an excellent, sweet flavor and spicy aroma. In addition to a particularly long shelf life, the variety also has an extremely long harvest season of four months, which far exceeds the typical harvest season of around two months for most mandarins.

It is estimated that the crop this season will total approximately 135,000 metric tons (MT), and this is forecast to reach 200,000 MT over the next few years (in 2016, production was only 90,000 MT). According to Mr. Amit, “We set ambitious goals to increase Jaffa Orri export volumes in 2017, and hope to double exports of the fruit by 2020. Furthermore, we’re set to bring the Jaffa Orri to every premium supermarket, worldwide.”

After being closed for three years, China has reopened its doors to Israeli citrus. How is the board seizing this opportunity and rising to the challenges?

When talking about the Chinese market, Mr. Amit said they were glad to witness a stable increase in exports to China for Jaffa Orri mandarins and Sunrise grapefruits over recent years. In the 2014/2015 harvest season, the export volume of the two varieties to China was 2,500 MT. In the 2015/2016 season, this number further rose to 4,000 MT, and the demand from China is still growing. Mr. Amit predicted that the figure for the 2016/2017 season might reach 6,000 MT.

Although the exports of Orri mandarins to the Chinese market are still in their initial stage, the export volume is experiencing robust year-on-year growth. In the 2015/2016 season, the export volume of Orri to China was only 160 MT. The 2016/2017 season began last December and the export volume of the fruit to China for the first month rocketed to 320 MT, thus doubling the total volume of the previous season. It is almost certain that the export volume for this season will exceed 500 MT.

Mr. Amit also admitted that the Chinese market is challenging. For example, the protocol was the first big challenge, requiring Israel’s citrus industry to undertake specific measures for planting, packing, and transportation. Secondly, the delivery time from Israel to China was still too long at 30–35 days by sea, with some transshipments along the route. However, he pointed out that no one could afford to neglect such a large market and Israel’s citrus industry would rise to all the challenges.

At the end of the interview, we were glad to learn that this season’s first batch of Orri would reach China very soon.

Image source: MZMC

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