U.S.: South African citrus arrivals ramping up this week
South Africa's Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum (WCCPF) has announced the country's first major shipment of clementines and navel oranges for the season is set to arrive on the U.S. East Coast this week.
The first refrigerated vessel, the Iberian Reefer will hold 1,096 pallets of clementines and 1,525 pallets of navel oranges, with the fruit distributed to retailers across the country.
"We expect to see continued growth in our exports to meet the increasing U.S. demand for our excellent quality of citrus products," said WCCPF CEO Suhanra Conradie.
"Clementines comprise the larger percentage of early season shipments, followed by Navel Cara Cara, and Midknight oranges.
"A small quantity of Star Ruby grapefruit also will ship to the U.S."
The industry is expecting a volume of roughly 46,000 metric tons (MT) to be delivered through October, representing a rise on last year's 41,000MT.
A WCCPF release said the South African citrus would arrive every 10-12 days to ensure the best quality fruit is fresh and available. The group claims demand for their products has been increasing, while growers expect consumers will be pleased with the taste, texture and overall eating quality of this season's crop.
"There is a very large quantity of citrus on the trees and weather and growing conditions have been ideal to increase the fruit’s brix or sweetness levels. Cooler weather has turned the fruit a brilliant orange color that appeals to consumers," the release said.
The export citrus will be inspected multiple times before hitting U.S. shelves - in the packhouses, in Cape Town prior to loading on the vessel, and on arrival in North America.
"Because our fruit is maintained at cold temperatures close to - 0.55° C or 33°F during shipment, it does not require chemical fumigation on arrival as does citrus from other Southern Hemisphere countries," said Conradie.
"This cold shipment extends the shelf life of the fruit and further and more importantly, avoids the need to apply unnecessary chemicals to the fruit."
A small number of pallets were sent in May on container ships to meet the growing early season demand for the fruit.
"The fruit takes times to ripen and achieve the high level of sweetness U.S. consumers prefer. Only small amounts of fruit are available and are shipped early in the season on containers."
The WCCPF is a consortium of 350 growers approved to export their citrus to the U.S.
Related story: SA Western Cape navel shipments to the U.S. set to climb