Citrus Fruit



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- Description and technical characteristics
- Origin and history

The term citrus fruits includes different types of fruits and products. Although oranges are the major fruit in the citrus fruits group, accounting for about 70% of citrus output, the group also includes small citrus fruits (such as tangerines, mandarines, clementines and satsumas), lemons and limes and grapefruits. The leading processed form in the group is orange juice.

Citrus fruits are produced in many countries around the world, although production shows geographical concentration in certain areas. Mediterranean counties are the leading area as producers for the international fresh market and Spain plays a dominant role in the area. Most orange juice production is concentrated in only two areas, Sao Paulo in Brazil and Florida in United States of America. Brazil is by far the largest orange juice exporter.

Citrus fruits rank first in international fruit trade in terms of value. As a result of trade liberalization and technological advances in fruit transport and storage, the citrus fruit industry is becoming more global in scope. During the last decades, production and trade in citrus fruits have increased steadily, although the intensity of growth has been different according to the type of fruit (it has been stronger in small fruits and orange juice, particularly in not-from-concentrated orange juice during the nineties, while there is a certain stagnation of other citrus fruits consumption in developed countries). There is an increasing presence of counter-season citrus fruits going from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere, contributing to year-round availability of fruit in the consuming areas in the North. Large Asian consumer markets are also opening new prospects for future trade expansion in citrus fruits.

The citrus fruit sector is evolving in a context of highly competitive global markets. The market is assisting to a change in consumption patterns, particularly in the form of an increasing focus on the quality and the value-added aspects of the product. In addition, there is an increasing power of global retail chains in fruit distribution as a consequence of the process of concentration and consolidation that they are undertaking. As a result, the citrus fruit market is evolving from a producer driven form to a more consumer oriented market.

Description and technical characteristics

Citrus fruits belong to the Rutaceae family. Citrus trees are evergreen trees that give fruits of different forms and sizes (from round to oblong), which are full of fragrance, flavor and juice. A section of these fruits allows to identify different layers:
- a rough, robust and bright color (from yellow to orange) skin or rind, known as epicarp or flavedo, which covers the fruit and protects it from damage. Its glands contain the essential oils that give the fruit its typical citrus fragrance.
- A white, thick and spongy mesocarp or albedo, which together with the epicarp forms the pericarp or peel of the fruit.
- The internal part that makes the pulp. It is divided into individual segments or juice sacs (with or without seeds, according to varieties) by a thick radial film or endocarp. This part is rich in soluble sugars, significant amounts of vitamin C, pectin, fibers, different organic acids and potassium salt, which give the fruit its characteristic citrine flavor.

Citrus fruits and citrus juices have several beneficial health and nutritive properties. They are rich in Vitamin C or ascorbic acid and folic acid, as well as a good source of fiber. They are fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free. In addition they contain potassium, calcium, folate, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium and copper. They may help to reduce the risk of heart diseases and some types of cancer. They are also helpful to reduce the risk of pregnant women to have children with birth diseases.

For more information on the benefits of citrus fruits and citrus juices:
- Nutritional and health benefits of citrus fruits, C. Economos and W.D. Clay, FAO Food, Nutrition and Agriculture, 24, 1999
- About Produce
- Floridajuice
- Nutrients in Citrus and Spotlight on Health and Nutrition, Florida Department of Citrus.
- Florida Citrus Nutrition & Health Information, Ultimate Citrus
- Fruit and Vegetables for Health
- 5 a Day
- Le Jus d´Orange
- Citrus and Your Health, Gaypack
- Aprifel-Fruit, Legumes et Santé

Origin and history

The exact location of origin of citrus fruits is not clearly identified, although most researchers place it in South-East Asia, at least 4000 years BC. There are actually different legends about the origin of citrus. The spread of citrus fruits from Asia to Europe was slow. First, citrus fruits were taken to North Africa and then, probably by the fall of the Roman Empire, they entered the South of Europe, where they flourished in the Middle Ages. Citrus fruits were brought to America by the Spaniards (Columbus took seeds of citrus fruits with him in his second trip) and the Portuguese in their exploration trips to the New World, around year 1500. It is believed that the word "orange" originates from Sanskrit.

International trade in fresh citrus fruits began almost two centuries ago. Even at its early stages, Spain played a dominant position in the Mediterranean area, supplying almost all citrus fruits shipped to United Kingdom, Germany and France.

In contrast, international trade in orange juice only started to increase in the 1940s, after World War II, when citrus processing technologies were invented and developed. The beginning of citrus production in Brazil is placed by researches at about 1530/40. Brazilian citrus industry started to play a major role in the economy in the 1930s, after the coffee crisis. The growth of Brazilian citrus industry was particularly high in the 1960s, when the freezes that destroyed an important part of Florida citrus fields led to increased production in Brazil as an alternative supply area, in order to meet existing orange juice demand in North America and Europe. During the decade of 1980, Brazil became the largest citrus fruits producer in the world and the first, and almost exclusive, orange juice exporting country. Historically, the United States citrus sector had been more domestically oriented. In the nineties, the citrus industry has become more globally integrated.

The following links provide more detailed information on the history of citrus fruits:
- The Orange History and The Orange Processing, Abecitrus
- History and Development of the Citrus Industry in The Citrus Industry, Revised Edition University of California Division of Agricultural Sciences, 1967
- Historia del Cítrico, Forbel
- Florida Citrus-Cultivating an Industry, Florida Department of Citrus
- ARC-Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Crops-Citrus

For additional useful information on citrus fruits characteristics, see:

- Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL, 1987.
- The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks, Gross, Kenneth C., Chien Yi Wang, and Mikal Saltveit, Agriculture Handbook Number 66, USDA Agricultural Research Service, 2002.
The Citrus Industry, Revised Edition University of California Division of Agricultural Sciences, 1967
- Saveurs du monde

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