The supply of South African citrus to China has been increasing every year. At the same time, other countries are also taking advantage of the off-season in the market and increasing their exports to China.
Mr. Pierneef Smit of Berda Fruit, a company with more than 20 years of experience in growing and exporting citrus from South Africa, is concerned about the current situation, as the production of lemon and soft citrus has increased dramatically over the past years. “Many people started planting trees in South Africa three to five years ago, and these trees began to enter full production a few years later, which means that production will increase five times in a few years for lemon and soft citrus. Our growth in soft citrus was not achieved in a gradual manner.”
Although China is a huge market, it is impossible for it to absorb all the products from South Africa. Therefore, Mr. Pierneef Smit believes that in order to survive, they need to look for more alternative markets for their oranges. “We are facing increasingly fierce competition from off-season producers like Australia, Egypt, and Spain, whose production is also increasing, so we also need to focus on other markets. If we have a large volume of products but no demand, then everyone will suffer losses, so now is a good time to take action."
Another issue pointed out by Mr. Pierneef Smit is the unfavorable protocols for imports. For Australian oranges, the protocol requires the fruit to be stored at 2 degrees during transit when exporting to China, while South African oranges need to be stored at -0.5 degrees. “This protocol affects the quality of our oranges, as it is not the ideal temperature for exporting this fruit. They should be stored at above 2 degrees to maintain their freshness and taste. We send selected high-grade oranges to the China market, but such an unfavorable protocol is difficult for us to offer the best quality. I hope that this protocol can be reviewed and rationally adjusted in the future so that everyone can better enjoy oranges from South Africa.”
According to Mr. Zhang Jie from Berdafruit, later navel oranges taste better. As for the market prospects in the next few weeks, he shared, “We are optimistic about the next few weeks. Most of the time, the Mid-Autumn Festival should increase sales, as orange is a more popular fruit in the autumn. In addition, the season in Egypt is coming to an end, which will be beneficial to our products from South Africa."
In order to further develop in the China market, Berda Fruit launched its own online wholesale sales channel. Different from other companies, Berda Fruit’s online customers are not consumers but wholesale buyers. They started selling on their websites 6 to 7 years ago with very good sales, as Mr. Zhang Jie said, “What we see online is that the sales of South African citrus are much better than our grapes, which is partly because the quality of the citrus can remain unaffected for a longer period of time."
In addition to products from South Africa, there are also other popular fruits available on their website such as cherries from Chile or blueberries from Peru. For some people, it is hard to believe that wholesalers are also selling online but as Mr. Zhang Jie added, “In order to sell online, you need to be very careful to get customers’ trust, so we put a lot of pictures, videos and background stories of our production areas so that customers have a very good impression of our fruit and understand our products well."
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