Madagascar’s annual litchi output is expected to drop by 30% from the 100 000 tons harvested in 2016 to around 70 000 tons in 2017 due to the effects of a drought that slashed productivity and dented the quality of its exports.
According to the French language newspaper La Tribune Afrique, the 2016/’17 drought caused a delay in the flowering of the trees, leading to a reduced output of small, poor quality fruits.
However, the paper said Madagascar would still be able to meet its European litchi export quota, estimated at 18 000 tons this year, as the demand falls far short of the expected output.
Despite the widespread production of good litchi crops by local farmers, Madagascar has been struggling with farmer support and product quality control issues.
High production costs at home are expected to further complicate the export marketing of Madagascan litchis amid a projected price increase from the €3/kg charged in 2016 to a ceiling price of €5 in 2017.
Although it remains the leading regional litchi producer and exporter, Madagascar faces stiff competition from the Reunion Islands, whose better-quality product is already a hit in Europe despite being highly priced at between €6/kg and €7/kg.
Unlike Madagascar, which suffers quality loss from exporting its products by cargo ships that spend weeks at sea, the Reunion Islands practices localised value addition and exports by air to ensure the markets get high quality products.