The citrus growers of Mzansi – the second largest exporter of citrus in the world – has once again flown the South African flag high at this year’s global citrus congress in London.
According to global experts who attended the congress, Mzansi’s citrus industry was not only the leading exporter of citrus in the Southern Hemisphere, but it was also the key growth contributor to the dwindling soft citrus industry in the 2021 season.
Speaking at the congress, hosted at Fruitnet’s studios in London, Phillipe Binard, the general delegate of the World Citrus Organisation (WCO), said South Africa’s citrus industry exported a ground-breaking 2.4 million tonnes, beating seven other countries in the Southern Hemisphere including Uruguay, Chile, Australia, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia.
Binard also showed that South Africa has remained the leading exporter of citrus in the Southern Hemisphere since 2015.
SA saves soft citrus sector
Globally, the soft citrus industry took a dive in the 2019/2020 season, which Eric Imbert, market news service editor of the Fruit Crop magazine, noted was driven by the European market.
In the 2021 season, the industry saw a good increase to 1.9 million tonnes. Imbert explained that this increase was mainly driven by the high-quality mandarins from the Southern Hemisphere in September and October, to which Mzansi was the main contributor.
“The imports of citrus from the Southern Hemisphere have in fact gained quite a lot of volume. They went from 30 000 tonnes in 2017 to possibly 80 000 tonnes in 2021, and South Africa is still representing the main part of the volume of 70%-75% with Peru representing 25%-30%,” Imbert said.
Even orange imports to the EU market are driven by South Africa, he revealed. In the 2021 season, Mzansi dominated with a market share of about 80% of the global supply.
Imbert shared that South African lemon exports to the EU are taking off and surpassing Argentina. He revealed that the country was representing a third of the volume during the 2017-2018 season and now it was almost two-thirds of the global supply.
Positive outlook for SA citrus
George Hall, the executive director of the Boland region in the Citrus Growers Association (CGA), says he is positive that the citrus industry of South Africa will continue to grow in coming seasons.
“There are a couple of areas where we can improve and take market share in the UK and Europe. I think we need to ride the wagon that stems from last year’s Covid-19 pandemic where we had record sales in citrus.
“This year has come down, but I think we can take advantage of last year’s situation and highlight the benefits of vitamin C,” he said.
Hall further stated that more promotion and education need to be done by the industry on the benefits of vitamin C for its growth.
“I see the British summer fruit foundation has a very good promotional campaign where they advertise and promote the summer fruit and I think we could learn from that and do something similar,” he pointed out.
Hall predicts that the introduction of citrus varieties to consumers could be a driving force for increased citrus consumption in the country.
He explained that every variety has different internal characteristics.
“If you take an orange, for instance, it has high sugars [and is] very sweet, which may appeal to a sector in the consumption market.
“Then you get tangoes, which are less sweet, so I think it would be good to educate the consumer on exactly what is available and the characteristics of each variety; to know exactly what they are buying because it’s very generic at the moment,” said Hall.
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