SA set to ship citrus to Thailand next season
The inspectors are expected to arrive in March and will be observing South Africa's harvesting, packing, transporting, port handling and shipping of citrus.
Citrus Growers Association chief executive officer Justin Chadwick, said preparations for export appeared to be going smoothly.
"We have all the responses ready in terms of protocols. There are some minor things we wish to review with the Thai authorities but we are hopeful there will be no major differences in what they want and what we are prepared to go along with."
He said Thai authorities were responding positively to the majority of South Africa's Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries' (DAFF) requests following receipt of the first draft protocol.
Chadwick said exports would be mainly grapefruits and oranges, which are better than lemons and soft citrus at withstanding cold sterilization treatments necessary for shipment .
"Volumes of lemons and soft citrus will be more limited as this type of treatment is a bit too harsh for them," explained Chadwick.
Although, initially exports will be on a modest level he is very pleased about the new relationship.
"It allows us to diversify and takes some pressure of other markets as well."
Thailand is able to produce citrus fruit for most of the year but because of a temperate climate with lack of cold snaps the fruit remains green even when ripe.
Chadwick said the Thai export requirements were similar to those for the U.S., mainland China and South Korea which want orchard and pack house registration and cold treatment.
South Africa first applied to export citrus fruit to Thailand back in 1998 and until two years ago the country was exporting apples, pears and grapes to Thailand.
South Africa's citrus industry faced difficulties in the most recent season with large volumes, high season overlap with competitors and lower European demand.
The country is increasingly looking for other market options. In June, South Korean inspectors came to look at the country's grapefruit and lemons.