South Africa’s citrus farmers have finished picking and packing fruit for the US market. Although the season will gradually wind down, five more vessels are still on their way to Philadelphia on the US East Coast and scheduled to arrive between now and the third week of October. Altogether, 17 conventional vessels made their way over from the Western Cape to Philadelphia, PA.
“This is a record number for us,” says Suhanra Conradie with Summer Citrus from South Africa. In addition to conventional vessels, containers with fruit were shipped into Savannah, New York, and Houston. There were no container shipments into Philadelphia this season, which added a lot of strain to the program. “However, the program into Savannah went really well. This port was a big life saver for us,” added Conradie. Much of the fruit that arrived at the Port of Savannah was distributed in and the around states in the South.
South Africa’s citrus will be complementing citrus availability in the US before the domestic season starts. “Fruit that arrives in the next few weeks will fill a gap in the market.” Right now, availability of South Africa Navels is winding down and Midknights will take the place of Navels in the last few shipments. Within the Easy Peeler category, Mandarins make up the majority of the volume. Limited volumes of Star Ruby grapefruit will also continue to arrive until the end of the season.
The group of growers, service providers, importers, and retailers closely work together in planning the program each year. “A lot of effort is being put into pre-season planning, which usually starts in February,” said Conradie. “We utilize a business model of managing supply and demand, which means we plan our volumes based on the demand of the market.”
This year, the group had originally planned to ship about 10 percent more volume compared to last year. However, US demand was higher than initially projected. As a result, the growth for this season will be between 15 and 20 percent.
Vero Beach, FL visit
Patrick Kelly of the Produce Industry Podcast paid a visit to Vero Beach, FL together with Chris Cockle from Wonderful Citrus, importer of South Africa citrus. Together, they go on the hunt for South African citrus. Go with them on their trip by clicking on the video below. Cockle explains how the Wonderful Company imports 1.5 million cartons of South African citrus each season, which runs from the end of June until November. He praises South Africa for its consistent quality and explains how the country only sends its premium product to the United States. Navel oranges for instance need to have a certain juice content as well as sweetness in order to be selected for the US market.
With the season coming to a close in about a month, Conradie reflects on the past couple months. She describes the season as tough, long, challenging and very fast paced. “However, I am very proud of what we have achieved together.” Conradie is looking forward to catching up with service providers, importers, and retailers as she visits the United States next month.