Fast start to lemon season but navels colouring slowly in Citrusdal

The high daytime temperatures of last week in Citrusdal, Western Cape, have been broken by a few days of rain, lifting spirits and lowering temperatures needed for colouring, especially on navels which are two to three weeks late. 

Citrusdal is able to export to the USA and the situation on the US market is a “perfect storm”, according to one trader, with California exiting early. South African citrus will arrive on the US market towards the end of May and in Citrusdal, packlines are running at full tilt. At this stage Western Cape navels obtain the best prices in the US, with the balance going to the EU, Russia and the Middle East.

The recent rain raises the possibility of splitting on navels but benefits the colour development they need before they can undertake their journey to the US. Whereas the navel harvest has started in some Citrusdal orchards, others report that they’re going to “pick like crazy” to get fruit off as soon as they’ve sufficiently coloured up. Growers report that navels are bigger than last year, with very good internal quality and juice percentage, and last year’s problem of navel end fissures and Alternaria rot mercifully absent.

Season off to good start with Satsumas and clementines 
The soft citrus season started around six weeks ago in Citrusdal with Satsumas which were well-received by the British market, followed by early clementines of excellent quality and size distribution, even if volumes are 5 to 10% down. 

Citrusdal growers will be sending the majority of their soft citrus to the USA.
There has been increased investment in covered soft citrus orchards in Citrusdal, which has paid off with better internal quality, improved colour development and quicker physiological maturity. The one disadvantage mentioned by growers are the pests that flourish in the conditions of high humidity.

Growing demand for unwaxed lemons
Lemons in Citrusdal have coloured up quickly and the harvest started more than a month ago and expected to run for another ten weeks or so. The fruit quality is very good and the harvest is up on last year, some say, when the effect of the drought was more noticeable. The lemon season quickly picked up steam. “It seems that this year lemons across a wide spectrum were ripening at roughly the same time, putting a lot of fruit on the market. Year-to-date volumes to Europe, for instance, are higher than last year.”

An increase in unwaxed lemons, destined for Japan, the UK and the EU, is also noted. “In my eighteen years in the industry I’ve never seen such demand for wax-free lemons,” notes a trader. “Everyone is looking for lower MRLs. The drawback to wax-free lemons, however, is moisture loss. A conventional lemon loses roughly 6% moisture over four to six weeks, so we’ll have to see how these lemons travel.”

On lemons the size distribution is good, generally peaking between counts 100 and 138. 

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