Lemon exports to China set to boom after new agreement

Persistence is guaranteeing results for South Africa's citrus industry, and our export relationship with China is strengthening. Soon, China's residents will enjoy excellent lemons straight from Mzansi

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It’s official: plenty more Chinese consumers can look forward to enjoying South African lemons soon. This is thanks to a revised protocol which was signed between the two countries.

Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza and Chinese ambassador Chen Xiaoding signed the protocol of phytosanitary requirements for the export of Mzansi citrus fruit on Friday, 18 June.

Thoko Didiza signing the Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements in Pretoria. Photo: Supplied/DALRRD
Thoko Didiza signing the Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements in Pretoria. Photo: Supplied/DALRRD

The citrus breakthrough will facilitate the export of lemons to China under a new phytosanitary cold treatment regime.

The local industry said this is great news, especially considering South Africa’s citrus boom that has been projected for this season.

Meanwhile, government described it as another important milestone for South Africa, which they hope will contribute positively towards the citrus industry’s growth and expansion.

Increasing lemon exports  

“We [are] indeed pleased that an agreement has been reached with the GACC (China) leading to the revised temperature regime for lemons on the export protocol,” Didiza said in media statement.  

Minister Didiza and Ambassador Chen Xiaoding of the People’s Republic of China signed the Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for Export of South African Citrus Fruit to China. Photo: Supplied/DALRRD

“Under this protocol, cold treatment for lemons will be 3°C or below for not less than 18 consecutive days.”

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South Africa has been exporting citrus to China under a protocol that was bilaterally agreed and signed in 2006.  

Under this protocol, the potential risk of false codling moth (FCM), a pest of quarantine concern to the People’s Republic of China, was addressed through a cold treatment regime of 24 days at 0.6°C in transit.  

According to minister Didiza, this can be considered as a process of disinfestation.

However, this temperature is not ideal for shipment of lemons (as this affects their quality) and thus, low volumes of lemons are currently exported to China.

ALSO READ: SA’s fresh fruit industry strikes gold in China

Persistence pays off

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association and chairperson of Fruit SA’s board. Photo: CGA
Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association and chairperson of Fruit SA’s board. Photo: Supplied/CGA

While it is known that lemons are not a host for FCM, the department and the Citrus Research International (CRI) have collaborated over a number of years to produce the required scientific justification towards revising the export protocol for Citrus to China.

Didiza said, “South Africa looks forward to increasing lemon exports to the People’s Republic of China, in addition to other citrus exports which have reached almost 130 000 metric tons in 2020.”

The signing comes after persistence recently paid off for the local industry when the first of SA’s citrus fruits was shipped to Philippines after a 12-year logistical nightmare.  

Reacting to the latest development, Citrus Growers’ Association CEO Justin Chadwick said, “This is great news. The revised protocol means that Chinese consumers will soon enjoy South African lemons.”

ALSO READ: Mzansi set on leading citrus exports to Philippines

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