SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has signed a new protocol agreement with China which opens the door for South African lemon exports to the Asian market.

The deal follows a request submitted by South Africa to exempt lemons from the current regulatory requirements for false codling moth (FCM) in light of the category not being a host for the pest.

According to report by IOL, the revised citrus protocol was six years in the making and is forecasted to add another R325m (US$22m) in new export revenue to the South African citrus industry.

The move is also expected to add another 800 jobs in the industry and ensure new market growth.

The Citrus Growers’ Association of South Africa welcomed the inking of the agreement indicating, it will enable South Africa to gain significant share of China’s Southern Hemisphere lemon import market, which has been dominated by Argentina and Chile to date.

South Africa lemon production is expected to grow by 175 000 metric tons by 2024

“Once the protocol is in place, South Africa is expected to surpass both countries, exporting 25,000 tonnes of lemons to China by 2024,” Justin Chadwick, CEO CGA said.

The South African industry has already enjoyed “phenomenal growth” in exports to China over recent years, with shipments of grapefruit, oranges and soft citrus reaching 130,000 tonnes in 2020.

Meanwhile, with local lemon production expected to grow by 175 000 metric tons by 2024, China will now become a critical new market for this growth as it will absorb the expected volumes and encourage farmers to increase their hectarage.

Although China ranked first in world fresh citrus production, at 37.74 tons (2019/20), the country did not feature among the top 10 world exporters, and it was the seventh-largest citrus importer.

South Africa’s traditional market includes 36 percent exports to Europe, 17 percent to the Middle East, 13 percent for South East Asia, 6 percent Asia, 8 percent to the Russian Federation, and North America and the UK at 10 percent.

In the case of lemons, its main destinations in 2020 were the Middle East at 35 percent, Europe at 34 percent, South East Asia at 9 percent, Russia at 9 percent, North America at 5 percent, the UK at 7 percent, and others accounting for only 2 percent.

This milestone follows the recent first shipment of South African citrus to the Philippines, which will also result in new export earnings of close to R205 million (US$15m) annually.

The CGA looks forward to continue working with DALRRD, South African embassies, various government authorities and industry counterparts to keep on optimising, expanding and retaining key markets including China, United States of America, India, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam and the European Union.