The first Tangos for export are being picked in FruitOne’s orchards in Hoedspruit and Letsitele, one of the earliest Tango mandarins in the country, and it’s proving to be an excellent crop, says Rowan Vickery commercial manager at FruitOne, the country’s biggest single Tango producer in terms of area planted.
“Soft citrus sales have been incredibly strong in the UK, throughout Europe and North America and it looks set to continue in that vein. Late mandarins are incredibly popular because it’s a phenomenal piece of fruit and we see consumption increasing hand over fist every single year, which is brilliant,” he says.
“What we’re seeing is that as the trees get older and the quality improves, we’re putting a lot more volume into retail than wholesale and trading. In the UK and European retail environment we’re seeing a doubling, even a tripling of our order volumes for Tango, they’re really selling well.”
Most of their export volumes are shipped to Europe, where their own office FruitOne Europe, based in Rotterdam, is dedicated to developing their direct programmes. FruitOne also puts fruit into UK and Canadian retail programmes, and runs a big programme with Freshmark in South Africa.
They are exploring value-added offerings for their clients in the form of low-residue packing and alternative packaging formats and brands.
Food Forward SA donations
FruitOne are also donating Tango mandarins to local feeding schemes as part of the citrus industry's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both via the Food Forward SA/Citrus Growers' Association initiative and into their own local communities.
Generally the growing conditions this year have been good, particularly in Hoedspruit, but slightly more difficult in Letsitele because of the drought, he notes.
“The whole late mandarin category is a very exciting category. We’re seeing an increase in production every year while consumption is keeping pace with production.
European retailers have realised that premium mandarins sell well during the Northern Hemisphere summer. We’re very excited about the Tango: it gives phenomenal production, it has a beautiful deep colour and amazing eating quality, and it’s a seedless variety as well.”