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South Africa exports more fruit again in 2022

South African fresh fruit exports have increased once again. From 2020 to 2021, those rose considerably, by more than ten percent, and by three percent again last year. The total was 4.2 million tons against 4.07 million tons in 2021 and 3.64 million tons in 2020. In 2015 and 2016, it was 3 million tons.

With a 22% share, the Netherlands is by far South African fresh fruit's most important buyer. In recent years, exports to the Netherlands have kept pace with the total. Total exports to the Netherlands will reach 930,000 tons this year, three percent more than 2021's 900,000 tons.

South Africa's fruit exports to all European Union countries stayed the same at almost 1.3 million tons, though (direct) shipments to especially Italy and Spain decreased significantly. After the E.U., Southeast Asia is the second largest buyer of South African fruit. This year, exports to that region should grow by seven percent to more than 800,000 tons. With 543,000 tons, that could increase by three percent in the Gulf States.

After years of growth, South African fruit exports to Russia stagnated at 280,000+ tons in 2022. This year's exports to the United Kingdom will also remain the same as in 2021: 440,000 tons. On the other hand, exports to Canada and the United States are rising quite a bit, but overall, at 260,000 tons, it is fairly modest.

This analysis data is based on Figures from the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS). The 2022 estimation uses export figures up to the end of October. Usually, 95% of the annual total is realized between January and October.

€3.7 million
South African fruit export values should reach around R61 billion this year. Assuming an exchange rate of €0.06 per Rand - in 2021 and 2022, that was roughly between €0.055 and €0.06 -  that amounts to about €3.7 billion. In 2020, that exchange rate was lower; before that, it was higher. This year, the average export price of South African fruit, in Rands, has been five percent higher than last year. But, it was slightly lower than in 2020, when the rand-euro exchange rate was lower.

Most via Cape Town
The Western Cape is good for almost 80% of all South African fruit exports. To the Netherlands, it's even more than that. Of all 2022's exports of 4.2 million tons, 2.9 million tons were shipped from Cape Town. Durban and Port Elizabeth are the other larger export cities, both shipping just under 500,000 million tons this year.

Oranges most important product, but also somewhat down
Oranges are, by far, the most important product and have shown no real growth or contraction in recent years. This year, around 1.28 million tons will be exported. That is slightly less than last year and somewhat more than in 2020. Several growth products follow, headed by apples, with 620,000 tons of exports in 2022.

Then, it is lemons with 555,000 tons, mandarins with 520,000 tons, and grapes with 400,000 tons. Of these products, mandarins increased the least in 2022; however, over a somewhat longer term, South African mandarin exports are increasing sharply. With 287,000 tons (+16%), pears and grapefruit with 237,000 tons (-18%) follow.

Then there is a large gap to the next product: plums, of which, even though only 95,000 tons were exported in 2022, that is 15% more than in 2021 and a record. Then comes avocado. At 62,000 tons, exports were higher than in recent years, but they have been even higher in the past. In 2022, growth products among the somewhat minor fruit are peaches and blueberries, with exports of 31,000 and 27,000 tons, respectively.

The Netherlands: fewer oranges, more grapes, lemons
Regarding fruit exports to the Netherlands, with 260,000 tons, oranges are the most important South African product. However, in 2022, that European country took slightly less than in both previous years. Two products whose exports to the Netherlands have grown substantially in recent years follow. These are grapes, with almost 200,000 tons in 2022, and lemons, with 116,000 tons.

South African mandarin exports to the Netherlands declined slightly to 100,000+ tons. While grapefruit exports plummeted, those of plums, avocados, blueberries, and peaches grew substantially. After increasing in previous years, South African apple exports to the Netherlands fell again in 2022. But few of these go to the Netherlands anyway. This year, that was only 22,000 tons.

South Africa sends 70% of its avocados to the Netherlands
Of the 22% Dutch share of South African fruit exports, most belongs to avocados: about 70%. South Africa exports about half its grapes, plums, and blueberry to the Netherlands. For citrus products, that is about 20%, and 18% for pears. But South Africa only sends four percent of its apples to the Netherlands.

Each buyer has its assortment
South African fruit buyers all take very different assortments. For example, Satsuma - 84,000 tons in 2022 - is the main product for export to the U.K. Not far behind are grapes, apples, and only then oranges. For exports to the Gulf States, oranges are again the most important product, followed by lemons. In exports to Russia, oranges again take the lead, followed by pears, Satsumas, and lemons. Apple exports to Russia fell sharply.

This year, South African fruit exports to China reached record volumes, with oranges and grapefruit playing the starring role. Exports to Malaysia are also of record size. Oranges and apples are the main products going there. North America primarily buys citrus.

Lots of mandarins, grapes, apples to the U.K.
Given the above, each product has quite varied customers. South African oranges go mainly to the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Russia. Most apples go to the United Kingdom, African countries, and Southeast Asia but not to China.

Russia and the Netherlands take a lot of pears. For grapes, the Netherlands is by far the most important buyer, and that country takes plenty of lemons too. And, of all South African blueberry and plum exports, half go to the Netherlands. South Africa also exports two-thirds of its avocados to the Netherlands.

Minimal airfreight
South Africa ships most of its exports by sea. In 2022, that was 3.92 million of the total 4.2 million tons. By road, it sent 250,000 tons of fresh fruit, mainly to neighboring countries. And a tiny portion by air. In 2022, that amounted to 31,000 tons. Though that involves many of the products, it is mainly blueberries. This year, 5,200 tons. Grapes, apples, strawberries, and granadillas follow. The United Kingdom flies in the most South African fruit - nearly 7,500 tons in 2022. Kenya, the U.A.E, the Netherlands, Uganda, and Germany are next.

Click here for the background figures.

For more information:
Jan Kees Boon
Fruit and Vegetable Facts

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