The South African citrus export season is entering its final phase. It is largely over for lemons, grapefruit, oranges, and mandarins.
Juicing oranges, however, can still look forward to a tight market and good prices. Gijsbert van Leeuwen of the Dutch company Olympic Fruit takes stock.
"The mandarin season began very well, price-wise. Quality-wise, however, it was difficult. Good demand meant the fruit was harvested mainly because of that market demand," Gijsbert begins.
"Not necessarily because the fruit was ready. In the summer, sales slumped, though the late mandarin market held steady. South Africa was ready earlier, and the Spanish season still needs to start, so the market is showing an upward trend with prices of around €16-€18 per 10 kg."
According to Gijsbert, the lemon market was quite stable all season. "Higher prices were made especially at the season's start and end. We hardly saw Argentina, and because of all the Black Spot rules, South Africa could send less fruit than planned. Ultimately, South Africa sent more lemons to Europe, but it was more spread out. That led to a stable market during the season, with no true dips," he says.
Grapefruit prices were reasonable the whole year, too. "In other years, this market often opened at about €20 but then dropped back to €10 or even less. Not so this year. South Africa stuck much more closely to its protocols and didn't send Class II or non-standard sizes. There was, thus, less supply in the season's first half."
"But that fruit could be marketed well. In the end, South Africa sent more fruit than ever so far to Europe, and most was shipped in the second part of the season. That just shows what a better volume distribution can bring about. The market is now emptying, and prices are shooting up again," says Gijsbert.
"Orange prices have also been stable throughout the year. There are still huge juicing orange shortages, though. In recent years, that market often sank at the end, so making predictions is dangerous. But for the time being, prices will only keep rising. Time will tell. South Africa loaded its last duty-deadline boat and is, thus, almost done exporting. Also, Spain is starting later, so a good season end is certainly on the cards."
This year had fewer logistical issues than other years, too. "You always have those. Weather extremes in Cape Town harbor mean it'll be closed for a few days. But that's part of it. Fortunately, there were fewer last-minute sailing schedule changes," says Van Leeuwen. Regarding sales, he finds the good demand from Spain particularly unusual. "The Spanish usually try to keep South African citrus out, but this year, they've shipped huge volumes from Egypt and South Africa," he concludes.