South Africa’s grapefruit growers are hard at work trying to manage what has been a very difficult season. Apart from weather-related interruptions and substantially flatter fruit volumes than prior seasons, fruit packing for China – one of Mzansi’s biggest markets – has stopped.
According to Francois Dillman, who grows grapefruit and Valencias on the banks of the Limpopo River, the renewed Covid-19 lockdowns in China have come at an extremely unfavourable point on the South African grapefruit calendar.
“Most guys have stopped packing grapefruit for China at this stage. There is some South African grapefruit on the Chinese market, but it’s moving very slowly.
“I think it’s a grapefruit market that will be dormant until the lockdown is lifted. It’s a heavy blow to our grapefruit exports, and we’re all hoping that the lockdowns in China are lifted soon,” he told FreshPlaza.
The China market has seen the most growth in recent years, with imports increasing from 50,000 tonnes in 2020 to 76,000 tonnes in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 52%. This rapid growth was mainly attributable to the higher proportion of lower, processing-grade grapefruit being exported to China.
However, Dillman said the current Chinese grapefruit market was a disaster.
“The grapefruit season is a short one and it’s hit and miss at this stage – the market could re-open or it could also not re-open and then you’re relieved if you didn’t send. This year it really is a gamble,” Dillman remarked.
The top five export markets for Southern African grapefruit are the European Union, China, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom. Japan is ranked third at 28,000 tonnes, just ahead of Russia’s 19,000 tonnes. Finally, the United Kingdom ranked fifth at 10,000 tonnes.
In Europe the grapefruit market is stable, if somewhat subdued, but at least the market is open.
Japanese grapefruit buyers are reported to have chartered a conventional vessel loaded with Marsh and Star Ruby grapefruit (and lemons) which left Durban last week.
South Korea has lost its importance as a grapefruit market as mealybug interceptions have surged over the past few years since South African authorities have assumed the inspection role from their South Korean counterparts.
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