By Raed Omari

AMMAN – This season’s production of citrus fruits will be lower than last year and “government policies” will determine prices, a senior Jordanian Farmers Union (JFU) official said on Saturday.

JFU President Ahmad Faour told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday that the recent “unprecedented” heatwaves along with the already “difficult” water situation in the Kingdom have negatively impacted citrus fruit farms.

“Citrus fruit farms in the Jordan Valley, especially in the Northern Ghor, were deeply affected by the heatwaves,” which caused “profound” damage to oranges, lemons and grapefruit, Faour said, adding that “this will definitely harm the reputation of the Kingdom as an exporter of citrus fruits”.

He explained that all citrus farms in the surrounding countries were also affected by the heatwaves, citing Syria and Lebanon, but “farmers in the Jordan Valley were the worst effected as they cultivate the fruits at the lowest point on Earth”.

The JFU official indicated that on the basis of the supply and demand formula, prices of citrus fruits in the local market may witness an increase, “unless the government does something, and it can do a lot to address the issue”.

However, the situation of citrus fruits will not be as severe as the ongoing tomato crisis, Faour noted, adding that “the government can import from neighbouring countries to address any possible shortage”.

He explained that the “severe” shortage of tomatoes in the local market caused prices to rise significantly, and the situation became “desperate” because all countries in the region were affected by the heatwaves and a devastating pest which automatically limited the government’s choices.

Asked whether tomato prices will decrease on the local market, Faour said he expects them to drop “considerably” as supply will soon be sufficient because “tomato farms in Ghor Al Safi and the southern governorates, which were not affected by the destructive insect, will provide local markets with adequate quantities”.

He also cited the ongoing campaign to eradication the Tuta absoluta or tomato leafminer, initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture earlier this month.

Other sector stakeholders, however, do not expect tomato prices to go down in the near future.

Anwar Haddad, an agriculture expert and executive director of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruit and Vegetables, told The Jordan Times that tomatoes will remain in short supply in the coming days and prices of the produce will register no “significant” decrease.

“Tomatoes from Ghor Al Safi and other valley areas will not meet the needs of the local market; therefore, prices will remain high.”