South African citrus growers gear up for U.S.-bound export season
In a release, the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum (WCCPF) said the first shipments would hit the U.S. East Coast in late June, with a similar total volume to the 2014 deal which saw 12% growth.
"The ongoing momentum is on a course to expand both value and volume, and hold prominent positioning in stores and establish our unique brand identity. This is all something we can roar about," said WCCPF CEO Suhanra Conradie, in reference to the South African campaign's mantra 'Citrus You Can Roar About'.
The release highlighted the U.S. Department of Agriculture had reduced the number of days the citrus must remain at cold temperatures, down from 24 to 22.
"The pilot of last season demonstrated with 100 percent success that 22 days is sufficient to meet the regulations of cold sterilization and the reduced time will apply again this season," Conradie said.
"Maintaining near freezing temperatures within a margin of +/- .25’ while in transit is among the most difficult and demanding processes in global shipping," added Seatrade operations manager and cargo care consultant Dale Rolfe.
While the earliest exports will arrive at the Port of Philadelphia and the Port of Newark, the forum plans to up the ante on its Texas-bound shipments in 2015 through additional lots with the first vessels calling into port in July.
"There is significant growth potential for South African Summer Citrus products in the Midwest and Far west regions of the US, and the Port of Houston is a key to that growth and expansion," said Capespan North America senior vice president Marc Solomon.
"The fruit can be received and quickly shipped to retail clients or bagged for their needs, resulting in significant freight savings."
The Port of Philadelphia will still receive the majority of citrus from South Africa shipped in conventional vessels, as part of a new three-year agreement.
"South Africa is among those exporters which implements the most rigorous of standards," said Holt Logistics Corporation's Eric Holt.
"International shipping is complicated but since the beginning of this program, we have partnered to avoid problems and then worked together to fix any that arise – something that is easier when there is shared vision to achieve 100 percent compliance."
Among the changes in the shipping for 2015 is the use of standardized wooden pallets for all citrus shipments to the U.S., after pre-approved pallets developed problems in 2014.
"While the fruit was not impacted, this change prevents a problem before it can occur this season," Conradie said.
"Holt Logistics as well as the Port of Houston, and the USDA and South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries were instrumental in managing this matter last season."
Working with newly commissioned data about retail and consumer needs and buying habits from the Nielsen Perishables Group, WCCPF is planning promotional initiatives in collaboration with importer partners. In addition, DMA Solutions is providing key market direction, particularly as the forum seeks to expand into Texas.
"The brand of the South Africa Summer Citrus product is evident in the vibrancy of the taste and the overall quality of the fruit," said DMA Solutions CEO Dan'l Mackey Almy.
"Based on the commitment to quality and delivering on the brand promise I was able to see first-hand while visiting with the growers, I believe buyers and consumers alike will increasingly look to South African Summer Citrus as being a premier choice."
These comments were all made during recent planning sessions for the season in the Western Cape, bringing together 125 representatives including growers, U.S.-based importers, receivers and service providers, shipping partners, U.S. retailers and government representatives.
In his keynote address, U.S. Consul General to Cape Town Teddy B. Taylor discussed the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) which has been in place since 2000 offering incentives for African countries to open up their economies and boost free markets.
"The citrus program provides 8,000 permanent and 12,000 temporary jobs. It has enabled the establishment of skills transfer and improved education and healthcare and recreational facilities in the Citrusdal valley," he said, adding that renewal of the AGOA was currently before the U.S. Congress with a vote expected before the end of 2015.
In collaboration with importer partners AMC Direct, Capespan North America, DNE World, and SealdSweet International, the logo and King Citrus mascot of South African Summer Citrus will be more visible on packaging and in stores to drive brand awareness in the US.
In addition, the WCCPF will be more visible with retailers at both United Fresh 2015 in Chicago at the beginning of the season and PMA’s Fresh Summit in Atlanta in October.