Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza proudly watched as a batch of 100 000 South African lemons were shipped off to China. This, after she signed an historic R325 million trade deal and revised citrus protocol with the Brics partner last year.
Didiza was joined by a host of role players at Maydon Wharf Fruit Terminal, Durban’s largest cold storage facility, on Thursday, 17 February. She said the China shipment signals many further opportunities for South African farmers who are expected to grow its lemon production by a further 500 000 tonnes in the next three to five years.
According to the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) the local citrus industry sustains 120 000 jobs and contributes at least R30 billion in export revenue each year. CGA chief executive Justin Chadwick earlier said, “The demand for South African produce overseas is a wonderful testament to the quality of South Africa’s citrus fruit. There is no doubt that citrus growers are investing heavily for the future.”
According to an Agbiz report Europe remains the largest export market for Mzansi citrus, generating an average of 45% of South Africa’s total citrus export revenue. Asia and the Middle East constituted 37%, and North American markets 8%. As part of the revised protocol, China eased the cold requirements for Mzansi lemons to a minimum of three degrees Celsius for less than 18 days.
This week’s China shipment followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest State of the Nation Address in which he reiterated that the agriculture sector has significant potential for job creation in a variety of crops. He singled out citrus, table and dried grapes, subtropical fruit, avocadoes, berries and nuts.
Didiza said, “The improved market access for South African lemons to China under ideal temperature conditions was achieved through a revised protocol signed in September 2021. South Africa as recently as 13 December 2021 also signed a protocol with China on the export of pears. This protocol is expected to raise the current 22% of pears the country is exporting to the Far East.”
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