tsssSOUTH AFRICA – The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) has predicted that 35.6 million 15kg cartons (534,000 MT) of the country’s mandarins will be exported in 2023.

This will be a significant increase from the 34.1 million 15kg cartons (511,500MT) that were packed and shipped in 2022, as revealed by the association in their latest weekly newsletter.

In 2021–2022, the area planted with mandarins grew by an estimated 7% to 28,000 hectares from 26,151 hectares the previous year.

The area planted with the fruit has increased exponentially over the past seven years, driven by higher global demand for seedless soft citrus and relatively higher profit margins compared to other types of citruses.

The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom together account for 45% of South Africa’s total exports of soft citrus. They are followed by Russia at 10%, the United States at 10%, and the United Arab Emirates at 7%.

South Africa’s exports of soft citrus to the United States have also grown significantly over the past five years, from 11,180 MT in 2016-17 to 48,820 MT in 2021–2022.

This growth trend is expected to continue, driven by the increasing demand for easy peelers in the United States market. In 2021-22, the United States was South Africa’s fourth-largest export market for tangerines/mandarins.

“Since 1998, South Africa has been exporting citrus to the USA from the Northern and Western Cape, with the volume growing from 200,000 cartons (15 kg) to over 60,000 tons,” writes Justin Chadwick, CEO of CGA.

South Africa’s citrus industry to gain from AGOA summit

Citrus growers in South Africa had the opportunity to learn and gain valuable knowledge at the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Summit, which will be held during from 2-4 November 2023, in Johannesburg.

According to the CGA, AGOA entails strengthening trade and investment ties between the US and sub-Saharan Africa countries. The summit is important for existing growers who benefit from duty-free access to the US market.

“This puts South Africa on an equal footing with its southern American competitors, who also have preferential trade agreements,” Chadwick expresses.

It is also crucial to note that since AGOA is not a trade agreement, South Africa’s membership needs to be renewed once the term ends. In this case, the term is ten years, from 2015 to 2025.

CGA hopes that the renewal will be secured soon to ensure confidence in future exports.

“In the longer term, the citrus industry would prefer a trade agreement to be concluded, as it would provide more security and could encompass various aspects beyond just tariffs,” reads the report.

Meanwhile, the US access is awaiting the conclusion of the final rule for the importation of citrus fruit from the rest of the country, which represents 85% of the industry.

The association anticipates that this issue will also be discussed during the AGOA Summit deliberations.

In their view, wider access to the USA is particularly important for the mandarin sector, as plantings in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are now yielding export-quality fruit.

“Importers of mandarins in the USA have indicated a preference for summer citrus from South Africa,” the report outlines. “This does not affect domestic US supplies and ensures that consumers stay loyal to the mandarin category all year round.”

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