Finally, Filipinos will eat citrus grown in Mzansi

Already the largest exporter in the world, the SA citrus industry needs more markets to sell its fruit

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After a battle that lasted more than a decade, the South Africa citrus industry has finally gained access to the Philippines market. Access to this growing market is a necessary victory for the local industry that needs more buyers for its fruit amidst a growth boom.

The CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association, Justin Chadwick, tells Food For Mzansi that he is overjoyed by the progress.

“The opening of the Phillipines market for South African citrus is a great step forward for the local industry. With a lot of countries being protectionist nowadays, opening markets is few and far between. In this case we’ve been working eleven years to a gain access, so we are overjoyed,” he states.

The successful agreement, Chadwick explains, was crucial for the local industry.

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South Africa is the second largest exporter of fresh citrus in the world, and in the recent five to ten years, the industry has seen a major expansion. This year the total citrus production from Mzansi is expected to be 2.15 tonnes, and a 2018 survey predicted a growth of 255 000 additional tonnes of soft citrus and 180 000 tonnes of lemons by 2024.

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association. Photo: CGA

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As a result of this boom, new markets needed to be established.

“If we don’t find new markets than all that food goes back into existing markets and ends up just crashing the markets, causing oversupply and low returns. Existing markets are already saturated as it is,” Chadwick says.

The time-consuming nature of the deal was due to risk assessment tests which the South African citrus industry had to undergo. Philippine delegates made a verification visit to the country in 2017 already to inspect industry systems, ports and more.

Chadwick says the correspondence became very cumbersome and slow and pest risk assessments also held up the process.

He tells Food For Mzansi that they are hopeful to send a first consignment this year already, but adds that this is unlikely. The programme is more likely to kick off in the 2021 season, however, they are trying to see if the Philippines will accept trial shipments to test the system.

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Chadwick adds, “With any new market, you generally find that at first the volumes going in are fairly low because people are getting used to the trade channels and shipping lines.”

A deal of this magnitude, Chadwick says, could not have been executed without the help of people who he deems were very influential in the process. He singles out Philippine embassy officials Martin Slabbert, Ellen Vega and Tshire Kau for thanks.

He also thanks Mooketsa Ramasodi, deputy director-general at the department of agriculture and Sitembele Kelembe, who represents the department of agriculture in Japan.

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