South African orange exports to India set for boost in 2012

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South African orange exports to India set for boost in 2012

One of India's leading fruit importers has told imports of South African Valencia oranges are set to jump by 40% this season.

IG International director Tarun Arora, said he would be importing fewer Australian navels in favor of South African Valencias which he described as of excellent quality.

"They are fabulous in terms of color, they have smooth skin, and they don't tend to get scars so their appearance is very nice," he said.

He added South African Valencias were also smaller-sized than Australian Navels, which which was attractive to Indian consumers.

"In a family of five or six they can have an orange each rather than sharing a large Australian one. People also prefer smaller oranges for juicing."

He said last year his company lost money on Australian Navels because of oversupply, the high exchange rate and poor fruit quality.

Arora said this year he expects to import 1400 metric tons (MT) of South African Valencies compared with 200-300MT of Australian navels.

However, Suri Agro Fresh joint managing partner Sudhir Suri said Australian oranges were just as good as South African ones in terms of quality.

"India is a price conscious market.  There were huge imports from Australia in 2009 but after that it slowed down and diverted to South Africa. It was just a matter of price," he told

He said that a 15 kg (33lbs) box of South African oranges was typically around US$3 dollars cheaper than Australian ones.

Suri added India was favoring Egyptian Valencias to Californian oranges for exactly the same reason, with each box of Egyptian fruit standing at US$8, compared to US$13 for a Californian box.

South African growers are conscious the Indian market offers huge potential to diversify with the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) taking part in the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) summit in New Delhi at the end of last month.

Van Doorn Citrus marketing manager Max le Roux, said his company has appointed a representative in India and plans to export 3000MT of Valencias this season.

He said India's 35% import duty, together with the color steri process, meant costs were higher than other markets.

"They demand a high quality and you need to sell more. We will be selling on a fixed price basis mainly to the wholsale market, whereas in Europe we sell on a consignment basis."

But he said it was important for South African growers to seize the opportunity of exporting to India.

"We have a growing citrus industry and we need to find alternative markets for this growth. We see that our traditional markets like the Middle East and Russia are being overun by Northern Hemisphere suppy which is running into our season."

California's Valencia crop this season is currently three weeks behind schedule because of an unusually mild winter with exporters, such as Fresh World, only starting to ship to India now.

CGA chief executive Justin Chadwick described the trip to India as valuable for strengthening South African and Indian official links over trade negotiations and reducing the import tariff.

"Given the relatively close proximity of India to South Africa, the significant market potential India represents and the highly complementary, counter-seasonality, nature of the two citrus industries, it is sincerely hoped that efforts to address the high tariff will be successful," he said.

Shipping times from South Africa to India currently take between 17 to 21 days.

Related stories: South African citrus production to rise in 2012

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