The Australian citrus harvest is underway and is going well, there were no big weather events during the growing season and the crop is looking reasonable, according to Neil Barker founder of BGP International.
“We are looking at a reasonable citrus crop this season, there are concerns about the Navels as there are a lot of big sizes so some markets won’t be supplied this year as they prefer the smaller grades. The mandarin harvest started back in April and has struggled a bit in some Asian markets due to the large volumes arriving from South Africa.”
According to Neil the labour situation in Australia is not as bad as some people say, it is harder for those with labour intensive crops, but citrus growers are generally well prepared.
The whole trade is influenced by the current shipping delays, with longer shipping times and a lot of uncertainty.
“The biggest problems are when you have to tranship product and have long delays at the port which can be as much as 1-2 weeks. In addition the shipping companies are unable to supply accurate information as to when a vessel will arrive in port. We are now going to marine websites to track ships ourselves and talking to the port terminals to find when the ships will arrive. The shipping companies are simply not doing their jobs. The cost of shipping has also greatly increased.”
Shipping to China used to take 17-18 days it is taking up to 4 weeks.
BGP exports citrus from both Egypt and South Africa to India. The Egyptian citrus season started earlier than normal and finished in June and is followed by South African citrus.
“The market is quiet due to Covid restrictions, but it’s still been ok. It is same everywhere. Despite the issues at Durban port the South Africa citrus is still reaching the markets and volumes this season are well up on previous years. South Africa has been sending big volumes into Asia this season. This does have an influence on Australian exports. The political situation between Australia seems to have calmed down from earlier in the year when we saw some tension which affected the export of some products.”
The main Asian hub ports of Singapore, Port Klang, and Nansha are seeing transhipment delays of up to 2 weeks while destination ports for Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Shanghai and others seem to be working OK. Customs clearance is working and importers are working around any lockdowns.
“Because of the transhipment delays we have stopped exporting grapes out of the US unless the ship has a direct call at the destination port.”