This year has been difficult in most markets for South African citrus producers, particularly the EU, with the CBS issue. Justin Chadwick, of South Africa’s Citrus Growers Association, explains that “we’ve had to implement a series of measures that are making citrus shipping to the EU more difficult and costly and people are already considering alternatives.”

Justin says that “fortunately, the eastern markets are starting to grow with volumes almost doubling this year. This includes China, which has strict requirements, but where we are shipping a lot of oranges and other citrus fruits, but some soft citrus and lemons are sensitive to cold treatments which limits what we can send.” He affirms that “there seems to be a shortage in the supply of lemons all around the world, and in China they are in high demand, so we’ve had an amazing year overall, we probably could have sold our lemon crop twice.”

Justin Chadwick at China FVF(right), with Anton Rabe, HortGro and Richard Owen, PMA

Meanwhile, at the other side of the scale, grapefruit continues to disappoint. Justin believes that “consumers don’t currently favour that kind of fruit. The only exception is South Korea, where our exports have considerably increased, from 60,000 cartons last year to 400,000 this year.”

Regarding oranges, South Africa has achieved a record crop this year, reaching 15.2 million 15kg cartons. The market conditions have been very difficult, firstly in the EU but also the US had a large crop.

According to Justin, “the main issue is that we ship 45 million cartons a year to the EU, and there’s no market that will take that sort of volume; the EU also demands very specific sizes and quality, which the eastern markets don’t want, so finding alternative markets is not easy.”

He states that a couple of weeks ago, export figures to the EU were 14% down, and production from its competitors in the Southern Hemisphere, like Australia and South America, is also on the rise. “Competition in the U.S. market, for example, based on quality and service, is huge, but it also offers opportunities for us all to expand.”