South Africa’s first citrus consignment to the Philippines is expected to arrive on Southeast Asian shores within the next three weeks.
The new market, which took years of negotiation, has presented the country with an export potential of 20 000 tonnes of citrus fruit, with export earnings of close to R205 million annually.
Now, the industry says it is ready to outshine its export competition in the Southern Hemisphere.
However, for this to materialise South Africa’s citrus exporters must get ready to pull out all the stops, says Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association.
Tuesday, 8 June marked a historic moment South African citrus history when local producers sent a consignment of 50 pallets – containing more than 50 tonnes of citrus to the Philippines.
The new market which follows 12 years of negotiations between the two countries is set to earn South Africa a large amount of foreign currency and translate into much needed job opportunities.
Mzansi’s citrus must become preferred fruit
Speaking at the Durban port from where the citrus was shipped, Chadwick noted that the new market opportunity emerged at a crucial period.
“The opening of the Philippines market comes at a time when the South African citrus industry is expected to grow by a further 500 000 tonnes over the next three to five years.
“Expanding access to new overseas markets is crucial if we want to avoid an oversupply of the region’s exports to our existing markets,” Chadwick said.
According to Chadwick they now hope that the South African citrus industry will surpass Argentina and Australia in exports to the Philippines over the next few years.
Up to now, these two countries have been the largest exporters of mandarins from the Southern Hemisphere to the Southeast Asian country.
However, for this to happen, South Africa’s citrus exporters will have to pull out all the stops.
“We have the fruit available,” Chadwick states. “The work will be done by exporters with their importers, wholesalers and retailers in Philippines.”
Moreover, the Philippine market will need to be educated about the fantastic quality of South African fruit.
This, Chadwick says, includes, “our focused food safety measures, ethical standards and stewardship of the environment. South African citrus must become the consumers preferred fruit.”
Philippines down, six more to go
Hinting at the current export season, Chadwick says the soft citrus-producing regions are expected to show the most significant growth. This is up 29% from last year, with mandarins expecting to grow by 42% within this category.
“It is therefore encouraging that this category makes up the biggest volumes of citrus imported by the Philippines, with over 80 000 tons imported between 2016 and 2018 – out of a total of 117 000 tons of citrus imported over that period.”
South Africa is the world’s second largest exporter of citrus fruit, after Spain.
Last year, the sector enjoyed a record-breaking export season with 146 million cartons of fruit and is set to enjoy another record-breaking export season this year.
Citrus Growers’ Association of South Africa vows to continue working with government to open and expand access in other key markets including China, USA, India, Japan, Vietnam and the European Union and in this way, play our part in contributing towards job creation and inclusive growth.