SA grapefruit mimics 2009 crop

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SA grapefruit mimics 2009 crop

Concerns for a small-sized South African grapefruit season have been alleviated with reports of similar sizes and volumes to the 2009 harvest, according to the Citrus Growers' Association of Southern Africa.

CEO Justin Chadwick says growers initially thought sizes would be small following a 'big' year in 2010, but the season so far has peaked with a count size of 45.

"We were having questions around sizing and that was an issue, as there were concerns about small fruit. Markets for small fruit are restricted, while demand for big fruit is very high in Eastern Europe and the Far East," he says.

"Grapefruit can be too big for some markets like the U.K., Northern Europe and Southern

Europe. They want very specific sizes in those markets - you're looking at 35-40-45.

"It’s similar to the crop we had two years ago, so it’s not as if it’s a huge crop. If markets behave the way they did two years ago then I don’t see any issues in terms of availability and market demand."

He says the amount of grapefruit that has a size count of 50, 55 and 60 plus represents around 34%, compared to 2009 when it was 35%.

"All grapefruit exporters worth their salt know that size matters when you are talking about their product," he says.

"2010 was generally considered a 'big' grapefruit year and this is borne out of the fact that in 2010 grapefruit packed up to the end of week 19 peaked on count 35 - with a fairly flat distribution between counts 35 and 45.

"More grapefruit has been packed to date in 2011 than in any of the previous three years. Once again grapefruit is peaking on count 45."

According to PPCEB data, 4.5 million 15kg cartons were packed up to week 19 compared to 3.6 million cartons during the same period 2010. Likewise, year-on-year shipments have risen from 700,000 cartons to 2.8 million cartons.

The U.K., Southern Europe and Northern Europe have received around 68% of shipments to date, while the first two ships holding around 9,000 pallets are already on their way to Japan where export volumes are increasing.

Chadwick says he isn't too worried about competition issues in export markets.

"The only country that has significant volumes of grapefruit is Argentina and we haven’t had any reports of big volumes out of Argentina this year.

He says ports have been quiet in South Africa but with economic recovery underway activity should pick up.

"You start to get more congestion in the latter part of June and July, once the Valencia harvest has started - with Valencias we still estimate to have about four million less than we had last year.

"Valencias will start harvesting at the end of June, so it’s still to early gauge that (volumes). We’ve had smaller grapefruit so it’s usually a similar situation with Valencias, as they’re grown in the same parts of South Africa."

Photo: Flickr, Image editor

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