South Africa’s flourishing fruit industry has increasingly made up a bigger proportion of the international trade, said the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy in its latest agricultural outlook for the period 2018 to 2028. One in every 10 oranges eaten around the world now comes from South Africa.
Citrus, grapes and top fruits, in particular, have strengthened their market position in the past decade. Citrus’ market share has risen from 4% in 2001 to more than 10% last year, followed by table grapes (5% to 7%) and top fruits (3% to 6%).
Citrus is South Africa’s biggest and most important fruit export, according to value and volume. By the year 2028 the country could be exporting 25% more cartons than last year, said the bureau. But to sustain this growth, new and diversified markets need to be found.
The EU and UK are far and away the most important export markets for locally grown fruit, but the dependence on these markets leaves South Africa vulnerable because the populations in both markets are growing at less than 1.5% a year. The report said these are also regions where there are no food shortages.
South Africa is the world’s third-largest citrus exporter, after Spain and Turkey. Oranges make up the bulk of the exports. About 76% of the citrus that South Africa produces is exported, with 32% going to the EU and 10% to the UK.
About 25% of stone fruit (such as peaches and prunes), is exported, with 40% of the fruit going to the EU and 31% to the UK.
In fruits that are seeing production increases, such as lemons, limes and soft citrus, new markets need to be found where demand and buying power is expected to increase. Many of South Africa’s competitors in the southern hemisphere are already a step ahead of us in some of these profitable markets and South Africa cannot afford to drag its feet, said the bureau.
A large proportion of new lemon trees are expected to begin producing fruit in the next few years. In 2009 a total of 4 449 hectares were cultivated. By last year this had risen to 14 470ha.
The US, EU, UK and Russia are the biggest importers of lemons and therefore South Africa’s competitors are geographically more ideally located to serve these markets, said the report.