Through consumers trying to ward off COVID-19

Vitamin C boom increases South African citrus exports

South Africa’s agricultural sector has been one of the few bright spots in the economy, as it witnessed a brisk growth of more than 15% in the second quarter of 2020. The COVID pandemic, destructive as it is, has given the sector a boost.

According to the Pretoria-based Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), the pandemic has sparked demand for vitamin C products. This in turn has consumers and companies scrambling for citrus fruit, which in most cases is like a vitamin C bomb.

“Export volumes for Q2 increased by 33% for oranges, 43% for soft citrus and 44% for lemons and limes. Prices were also higher due to both local and international demand for Vitamin C in light of Covid-19,” was recently told.

“Agricultural performance is expected to remain strong in quarters 3 and 4, with strong citrus exports continuing through Q3 and early expectations pointing to a good winter crop.”

South Africa is the world’s No 2 exporter of citrus, behind Spain, and the economy can use all the foreign currency inflows that come with exports that it can get right now. As the central bank noted in its Monetary Policy Committee statement last Thursday, “South Africa’s terms of trade remain robust. Commodity export prices are high, while oil prices remain generally low.” Much of this stems from precious metals such as gold. The citrus sector is also playing a role here.

“We have now packed 95% of the crop, and the final prediction is 147 million 15kg cartons – above an initial estimate of 143.3 million, and 2019 exports of 127.5 million,” Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa, told Business Maverick. That would be overall growth of 15%, which is still pretty solid.

Chadwick said the citrus sector generated R19-billion in export revenues in 2019, but the 2020 number won’t be clear until April 2021.

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