In 2021, Argentine exports to the Russian market totaled 680 million dollars, 95% of which corresponded to agricultural products. Russia ranks among the top three buyers of Argentine lemons. That's why the war in Ukraine has set off all the alarms in the citrus exporting sector.
Argentina is the world's second-largest exporter of lemons after Spain. It exports nearly 270,000 tons of lemons per year and nearly 50,000 tons are destined for Russia and Ukraine, stated Pablo Padilla, the president of the Argentine Northwest Citrus Association (ACNOA).
"We are very concerned because the fruit harvest will start in the coming days and followed by shipments to Russia and Ukraine. The war is a painful event that will inevitably impact our activity," stated the president of the chamber that brings together the sectors specialized in the production, industrialization, and marketing of citrus fruits of Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta, and Tucuman.
"There is a negative impact, it's not an assumption, there already are tangible situations that affect us. For starters, there already are companies that are delaying the harvest second. In addition, the exclusion of the Russian banks from the Swift financial transaction system (which will enter into force on March 12) will make it impossible for our customers to pay us. Furthermore, the devaluation of the ruble will bring down the demand from Russia's citizens, and finally, maritime freight is not taking reserves for Russian ports," he said.
In this regard, the news agency Bloomberg reported that shipping giants AP Moller-Maersk A/S, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., Hapag-Lloyd AG, and Ocean Network Express Pte of Asia, announced the temporary suspension of all shipping of sea containers to and from Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine. Maersk, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, and One Network account for nearly 47% of the world's container transport capacity.
Relocating these 50,000 tons of lemons, which correspond to the markets that are currently in conflict, won't be easy to do this season, Padilla stated. "Opening a new market isn't easy. The demand from Asia is still developing, so there is uncertainty about the fruit that was destined for Russia and Ukraine."