16 Januarie 2020

Produce of the Month: Chinese Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin orange season has arrived! This time of year, the coveted mandarin orange has its time to shine. With Chinese New Year approaching on January 25th, you may see bright orange and red colors adorning doorways, gifts, and homes to bring good fortune and wealth.

Why is the mandarin orange so important to Chinese New Year?

Fruit often has important symbolism in Chinese culture. The Chinese word for mandarin – kam – sounds similar to the word for gold. It’s been a long-standing tradition that these small round fruits symbolize gold and are said to bring riches. That’s why you might see a mandarin orange alongside a gift you receive this holiday, or mandarin oranges spread across the dinner table for decoration. And while they are sometimes bare, it is popular to have this fruit come with its stem and a few leaves attached. This is an indicator of the mandarin’s freshness and represents long life and fertility. Mandarin orange trees may be seen in shopping centres, hotels, or even in some homes. We appreciate how important citrus fruit is for the Chinese New Year and are proud to supply mandarin oranges worthy of its wealthy reputation.

This season’s harvest

Mandarin season typically starts in mid-November and harvest runs through late January to mid-February. Currently, production is in full swing. Sizes of mandarins are generally smaller than last year. There is expected to be fresh supply throughout this month and into February, serving as perfect timing for Chinese New Year celebrations. Over 90% of Chinese mandarin production is sold into the domestic market. Export markets focus on the Middle East, South Asia, and Canada.

Overall crop volume is slightly down from last year. Some of this is weather related, inclusive of droughts in some areas and unusual heavy rains in other areas. Although, some of it is the typical bi-annual nature of this crop, due to cultivation techniques, mandarin orchards in China tend to alternate strongly between heavy years and light years.

There was an increase in new production last season which pushed volumes further up, in addition to being a heavy production year for existing orchards. New production proceeds this year as well, with total plantation areas exceeding 460,000 ha in Guangxi and 400,000 ha in Sichuan.

Weather impacting quality and yields

Across the south of China rains were heavier than usual during the winter, lasting through the spring and into the “flowering season”. These extended periods of rain during the setting of blooms meant that quantity of fruit that was able to ‘set’ on the trees was lower than last year.

Farms in Sichuan province reported that their trees had between 30-50% fewer flowers this year. These problems continued into the summer with torrential rains causing flooding in mandarin orchards in Guangxi, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces. Flooding such as this can be expected to cause quality problems, as well as contributing to the disappointing yield.

Yunnan region, on the other hand, has been suffering from drought conditions which will impact the mandarin crop there as well. New plantings of the Wogan variety are particularly impacted in this region.