Southern Africa expecting record citrus crop and remains confident of successful season
The Southern African citrus sector is expecting record export volumes this season, which an industry body still expects to be a success in spite of multiple challenges.
Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) CEO Justin Chadwick said the region is forecasted to see exports rise by 13% year-on-year to 143.3m cartons in the 2020 season.
The growth is largely as a result of new orchards coming into production and good rains across some regions.
Valencia oranges make up the biggest portion of the citrus export market at 35%, followed by navel oranges (19%), lemons (18%), soft citrus (16%) and grapefruit (12%).
The soft citrus and lemon categories are expected to show the highest growth in 2020. Soft citrus should see an increase of 28%, with the Boland region contributing 12% more cartons than last year. Regions in the northern parts of the country, including Burgersfort/Ohrigstad; Senwes and Hoedsruit will also see exponential growth in their soft citrus outputs.
The Sunday’s River Valley, which exports almost half of the region’s lemons is expected to export 12m cartons this year, an 18% increase from 2019. The northern regions Nelspruit, Letsitele and Burgersfort/Ohrigstad will also show massive growth ranging from 40% to 55% compared to last year.
Challenges ahead for Southern African citrus
"While we are confident that the 2020 season will be a success, we are also aware that there are events beyond growers’ control that could impact final export numbers," said Chadwick.
"Most notably, the Coronavirus (Covid 2019) outbreak presents a new challenge to fresh produce exporters across the globe."
He noted that it is encouraging that China’s logistics services are expected to be fully operational soon, with cargo volumes and ship calls having swiftly rebounded over the past two weeks.
"However, the outbreak across the European Union (EU), the largest export market for South Africa’s citrus, remains a concern and could still result in a decrease in demand and a shortfall of containers when the export season kicks off in May," he said.
"It is therefore critical that exporters confirm that there are containers available before they start shipping."
Challenges at South Africa’s ports, including aging and out of service infrastructure as well as unresolved labor issues remain a threat to export volumes, he said.
However, Chadwick said the Southern is proactively engaging with port operator Transnet and welcomes recent steps taken including by the company to improve operations at a number of the ports.
This includes the procurement of new equipment for both the Port Elizabeth and Durban ports, which is expected to arrive before the start of the export season.
"With the citrus industry expected to grow by a further 500,000 tons over the next three to five years, the Citrus Growers’ Association will continue to focus on opening and expanding market access in key markets including China, USA, India, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam and the EU," he said.
"The sector looks forward to working with all its partners during the upcoming season in order to achieve another record year, and to contribute towards job creation and inclusive growth in the country."