SOUTH AFRICA – The South Africa citrus industry is expected to see steady growth across most citrus varietals, with an estimated 4% jump in exports volumes.

This was revealed by the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa, a trade group representing all export citrus growers in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

Last year, the country exported 161.6 million 15kg-equivalent cartons of local citrus, 18.6 million cartons more than last year, despite several logistical difficulties that arose during the season.

In the coming season, South Africa is expected to export 32.3 million cartons of lemons, an increase of 1.3 million cartons when compared to 2021.

However, a cooler summer could result in smaller fruit in some regions, which could impact the final number of cartons packed and shipped.

Exports of navel oranges on the other hand are forecast at 28.7 million 15-kilogram cartons, up 1.5 million cartons from last year, with hail in the Eastern Cape Midlands depressing output there and ample rain boosting production in the Sundays River Valley and other areas.

Valencia orange exports on the other hand are forecast at 58.2 million 15-kilogram cartons, up 3.2 million cartons from 2021.

The CGA noted that, “the final number shipped could decrease depending on market conditions towards the end of the season, in particular narrowing market windows which could make it difficult to ship remaining volumes.”

Meanwhile, grapefruit exports are expected to reach 14.8 million 17-kilogram cartons, although the final figure could be influenced by rising fuel costs as well as the war in Ukraine, with Russia a major importer of South African grapefruit.

“Furthermore, should fuel and shipping costs continue to escalate, PP fruit that is sent for processing and Class 2 grapefruit will not be exported which will also reduce the final export total,” stated CGA.

Key markets that offer major potential for expanded access and require particular attention during the coming season are the United States and India.

This is the only way the growers will be able to offset increasing input costs that are squeezing their profit margins and for the industry to remain competitive, particularly considering local production is expected to grow by another 300 000 tons over the next two years.

According to the CGA, the South African citrus industry supports 120,000 jobs and brought in more than 30 billion South African rand (US$2.05 billion) in revenue last year.

However, the industry is facing a number of challenges, including soaring costs for fuel, fertilizer and freight, market access challenges, and ongoing operational issues at South African ports that need immediate attention.

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