Fruits Vegetables
es en ca
Orange, Citrus sinensis / Rutaceae
The origin of oranges is uncertain, although certain authors locate it in China and Japan. In Spain, the orange tree was spread by the Arabians.

The two main producing countries are Brazil and the United States, intending their production almost exclusively for the industry of juice.

Spain is the first country of citruses in fresh export.

Referring to the origin of the bitter orange tree, there are different opinions among the experts. Some authors state that the bitter orange tree travelled from Libya to Europe, others think that the Arabians brought it from India in the Xth century and they acclimated it to all the countries, other some authors claim that in 1150 they garnished the Sicilian gardens. According to another author, the bitter orange tree comes from the East Indies. The first description known of this tree is from Alberto Magno.

Concerning the origin of the sweet orange tree, it is also very confusing. Some say that it was taken from Arabia to Greece, from Greece to Italy, to Spain, France, Portugal, etc. Others are sure that the sweet orange tree is native of southern China, Burma and the Indian regions, to the south of the Himalayas.

The Arabians introduced the bitter fruit all over Spain, spreading them in gardens, parks and streets, using their flowers in many religious celebrations.

According to the Fresh Produce Desk Book of 2001, estimations on the world orange production reach 61,879,000 tons; the European production is around 5,796,000 tons, which means that over 9% of the world production takes place in the European Union. From this amount, 2,403,000 tons are produced in Spain, accounting for 41% of the European manufacture.

The United States had been the leader of the world production until now, but Brazil has taken over and is nowadays the leader. The production of these two countries account for 42% of the world production. Most of the orange harvest in these countries, 52% in Brazil and 66% in the United States, is intended mainly for frozen concentrated juice. Countries like Spain, Morocco, Israel, Cuba and South Africa intend great part of their harvests for exporting, in a way to take profit from their enormous production.

The production of the Mediterranean countries is intended to a large extent for supplying Northern Hemisphere fresh trade, especially Western Europe.

The production of the United States goes to Canada and the Far East, to Japan and Hong-Kong.

The main exporter in the Southern Hemisphere is South Africa.

The world production of oranges is shown in this table:

Production(thousand tons) %
North America17,19413,24621
South America23,56325,37341

Source: Fresh Produce Desk Book (2001).

The 10 main producing countries along with their production evolution in the last years are shown in the following table:

Production (thousand tons)   
United States7,42110,36611,50012,571

Source: FAO Production Yearbook (1998).

As we can appreciate, Brazil’s harvest exceeds a third of the world production, and along with the United States, it represents more than half of the global production. In both cases, almost the whole production is destined to industrialization.

In the Mediterranean, the cultivated varieties are mainly for consumption in fresh.

In Spain, the main producing area is Valencia. The following table details the 8 provinces with greater orange tree cultivated surface in 1989, in hectares:

Surface (ha)
TOTAL (all Spain)135,579

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

The orange production in China has been traditionally low since they have always preferred the mandarin. Nevertheless, and due to a change of policy during the 60s, the orange tree production underwent a remarkable increase reaching 2,8 million tons in 1998. The production is destined to national consumption.

As far as the exports is concerned, the 10 main orange exporters are:

 tons 1998thousand $ 1998
South Africa496,000172,373
The Netherlands208,891125,504

(Export of Oranges, Mandarins and Tangelos)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 1998.

The enormous difference between the Spanish exports and the rest of the main exporting countries is clearly shown. Spain exports almost 1,800,000 tons more than the second exporting country, the United States. The amount of tons exported by Spain surpasses the total of tons exported by the United States, along with Morocco, South Africa, Greece, Egypt and The Netherlands.
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