SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa maintained its position as the world’s second largest citrus exporter in 2020, delivering 146 million cartons of South African citrus to the rest of the world.

Citrus Growers Association (CGA) Chief Executive Justin Chadwick attributes the record-breaking achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted trade across the global, to close collaborations and partnerships within the industry and with the government.

“It is a testament to the quality of South African citrus fruit which is in demand all over the globe,” he added.

In March 2020, CGA predicted a bumper export season, estimating that export volumes would reach 143 million cartons of fruit.

From the current estimates, the citrus industry is expected to increase its exports by another 300 000 tons over the next three years.

“The growth projections for soft citrus, lemons and Valencia oranges alone indicate an expected additional R6.8bn in foreign exchange earnings and the creation of 22 250 sustainable jobs over the next three years,” said Chadwick.

Releasing the trade statistics for December 2020, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said the country recorded a trade surplus of R32 billion. These statistics included trade data with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN), reports iol News.

The year-to-date in the period between January 1 to December 31, 2020 saw a trade surplus of R270.63bn, which was an improvement from the R23.66bn surplus of the comparable period in 2019. Exports increased by 21.9 percent year-on-year while imports increased by 5.7 percent by the same period.

Meanwhile, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service expects production of South African citrus, mainly soft citrus, new orange varieties, lemons and limes to continue their strong growth in the 2020/21 Marketing Year (MY) in comparison to the previous season 2019/20 MY, based on the increase in area planted, improved yields, high level of new-plantings coming into full production, and the minimal impact of COVID-19 on labor and input supply.

Looking at consumption, citrus demand is expected to surge due to the assumed benefits of Vitamin C in boosting immunity against COVID-19.

Exports will similarly be on the rise courtesy of free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) and the United States under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).

South Africa also exports citrus fruits to other African countries, Middle East and Asian markets.

South Africa export of grapefruit and oranges to rise by 2% each, tangerines by 9% and limes by 10%

Grapefruit production to minimally rise

According to the report, production of grapefruit is forecast to increase by 1 percent to 360,000 Metric Tons (MT) in the 2020/21 from 358,000 MT of 2019/20.

Grapefruit consumption is likewise projected to increase to 8,500 MT from 8,000 MT. However, the post notes that grapefruit is not a very popular citrus fruit in the domestic market, with many consumers largely unfamiliar to its qualities and taste, resulting to a per capita consumption which is relatively low at below 1 kg per annum.

In terms of trade, grapefruit exports will increase by 2 percent to 260,000 MT in the 2020/21, from 256,000 MT in the 2019/20.

Orange exports to reach 1.32 million MT

The country also abounds with orange fruits. Production of the fruit is forecast to increase by 3 percent to 1.70 million MT from 1.65 million MT in the 2019/20 MY.

Consumption of oranges will increase by 3 percent to 80,000 MT from 78,000 MT. Fresh oranges are the most popular citrus consumed in South Africa with a per capita consumption of about 1.5 kg per annum.

Export of the fruit is forecast to rise by 2 percent to 1.32 million MT from 1.29 million MT.

Due to high supply, import of oranges is set to decrease to 2,000 MT from 3,834 MT in the 2019/20 MY.

Soft citrus consumption to rise by 11%

Shifting focus to the soft citrus, production of tangerines is expected to continue its aggressive growth and is forecast to increase by 6 percent to 515,000 MT in the 2020/21 MY, from 486,000 MT in the 2019/20 MY.

Just like the other citrus fruits, consumption of tangerines is forecast to increase by 11 percent to 30,000 MT in the 2020/21 MY, from 27,000 MT in the 2019/20 MY.

The export of fruit is projected to increase by 9 percent to 420,000 MT in the 2020/21 MY, from 385,000 MT in the 2019/20 MY, while imports will remain flat at 3,000 MT.

Lemons/limes are also expected to continue with their growth and are forecasted to increase by 2 percent to 670,000 MT in the 2020/21 MY, from 657,000 MT in the 2019/20 MY.

The domestic consumption will increase by 4 percent to 27,000 MT from 26,000 MT, with exports shotting upwards by 10 percent to 500,000 MT in the 2020/21 MY, from 455,000 MT in the 2019/20 MY.

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