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Lemon, Citrus limon / Rutaceae
The lemon is original from the Southeast of Asia, although at the moment it is produced in all the tropical and tempered areas of the globe. The main producing country is Mexico, followed by India, whereas Spain is the first export country of lemons and limes.

The lemon is probably original from the south of China where this fruit is worshiped as a symbol of happiness, and it has been cultivated in Asia for more than 2,500 years. Once the culture had spread through China, it reached the area nowadays known as Iran. The Arabs spread it during the Xth century along the Mediterranean basin, to the east towards Greece and to the west towards Spain.

According to the Fresh Produce Desk Book of 2001, the world production of lemons and limes is around 9,637,000 tons. The following table reflects the distribution of the production by continents.
COUNTRYPRODUCTION (thousand tons) %
 19981999 
Africa5675716
Asia3,0583,06132
Europe1,6851,64117
North America2,2652,29324
Oceania3636-
South America1,9792,03521
TOTAL9,5909,637100


Source: Fresh Produce Desk Book (2001).

The European production occupies the fourth place in the world ranking. The main producing countries are Spain, Italy and Greece.

The 10 main producing countries in the world along with their production evolution in the last years, are shown in the following table:
COUNTRYPRODUCTION (thousand tons)   
 1989-91199619971998
Mexico7271,1261,1261,091
India7479801,0001,000
Iran4607549401,000
Argentina497801871871
The United States718913869848
Spain603484647688
Italy674610615610
Brazil392455455455
Turkey374401270360
Egypt352312264300


Source: FAO Production Yearbook 1998 (including lemons and limes).

As shown in the table, the country with greater lemon and lime production is Mexico, and very close to it we find India and Iran, whose production is similar.

In Spain, the main producing area is the levantine or east coast, being Valencia, Alicante and mainly Murcia the most important producers, with great surfaces intended for lemons export to Europe.

The following table details the 8 provinces with a greater cultivated surface of lemons in 1989, in hectares:
PROVINCESURFACE (ha)
Murcia25,567
Alicante15,553
Málaga5,588
Almería1,191
Sevilla313
The Canary Islands265
The Balearic Islands264
Valencia220
TOTAL (all Spain)49.566


Source: Anuario de Estadística Agraria 1989. Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación. Secretaría General Técnica

It is possible to see, while analyzing the previous data, that more than half of the producing surface in Spain is centered in the province of Murcia, surpassing in surface to all the area cultivated in Alicante and Malaga.

Concerning exports, the 10 main exporters of lemons and limes are:
COUNTRYEXPORT 
 Tons 1998thousand $ 1998
Spain501,177260,636
Mexico217,67954,907
Argentina154,34573,376
The United States121,71581,448
Turkey103,47558,001
The Netherlands82,03455,379
South Africa55,00017,050
Greece36,90412,388
Italy24,72214,562
Uruguay17,8446,940


(Export of lemons and limes)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 1998.

We can see the great difference between the Spanish exports and that of the rest of the exporters. Spain exports 280,000 tons more than the second main exporter, Mexico. The quantity of tons exported by Spain exceeds the total quantity of tons exported by Mexico, the united States and Argentina together.

The ten main importers of limes and lemons are:

COUNTRYIMPORT 
 tons 1998thousand $ 1998
The United States183,47358,750
Germany133,04588,359
France116,72684,994
The Netherlands102,42265,267
Poland96,96642,946
Russian Federation96,43629,560
Japan86,445130,658
United Kingdom61,92850,734
Italy61,34544,366
Canada42,04724,415


(Export of lemons and limes)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 1998.

One can see that the first positions, except the United States, are occupied by Nordic countries. This is because they are countries that supply their own inner market and are also devoted to re-export.
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