Importers have dismissed fears that projected lower citrus production volumes in the Mediterranean could result in shortages on UK supermarket shelves this autumn and lead to higher on-shelf prices.

Orange and grapefruit crops are forecast to be down by a respective 6% and 9.5%, contributing to an overall 2.2% decline in citrus volumes from the ­region to 17.1 million tonnes, according to the latest figures from Freshfel Europe, the Brussels-based trade organisation for the fresh produce industry.

Lemon volumes are ­expected to be up 4.5% and easy-peeler volumes are tipped to rise by 3.3%.

Importers were nevertheless confident this week that they would manage to avoid supply shortages or higher retail prices for ­oranges and grapefruit.

Although volumes for the entire region were down, the strong performance of key individual countries would sustain supply, said Prag Mistry, MD of citrus importer Fruitmann.

Total citrus production in Spain was expected to be up 9% on last year and importers were not expecting any "major fluctuations" in volumes or prices into the UK. The latest Freshfel figures simply gave an indication of this season's production and were not exhaustive, added Mistry.

This was echoed by José Antonio Garcia Fernandez, chairman of the Freshfel Citrus Working Group, who said the quality of citrus from Spain, Turkey and Morocco would be particularly pleasing because of good spring weather. The upcoming citrus season would be relatively normal for UK shoppers, he added.

Garcia Fernandez also anticipated increased demand for clementines throughout Europe this season because of a predicted fall in apple and pear production. Past consumer trends had shown there was considerable competition between the two, with shoppers switching categories based on availability and price.

The Mediterranean citrus season will start in the next few weeks as supply from the southern hemisphere starts to tail off.