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Another record year for South Africa’s citrus exports 

Another record year for South Africa’s citrus exports 
Photo: Eurofresh Distribution

South Africa’s 2021 citrus exports are expected to set another record, driven largely by late  mandarins. The Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) estimates 158.7 million cartons will be shipped in 2021, compared to 146 million in 2020  and  130 million in 2019,  meaning a 22% export growth in just  two years.

Eswatini and  Zimbabwe combined have  also increased their export figures from  3.9 million cartons in 2020, to an estimated 4.4 million  cartons in 2021  – an increase of 13%. Navel  oranges and  lemons have  shown a small  increase since last  year, while  Valencia oranges (+5%) and  grapefruit (+16%) have  shown a stronger increase.

 

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South Africa remains top source of citrus imports to EU

South Africa remains top source of citrus imports to EU © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution

 

The EU’s citrus imports hit a new high in 2020, with South Africa the number-one non-EU source of citrus, accounting for 44% of the total volume, according to data published by the Valencian Association of Farmers. The 2020 volume of 968,600 tons was up 24.8% from the previous season. The main growth segments are late mandarins, which coincide with early Valencian varieties. Egypt is in second position, with 334,350 tons (+16% from 2019). Turkey’s exports were up by 49.5% to 190,300 tons. Meanwhile, Morocco’s shipments fell, due to the drop in production caused by drought, while Argentina was subjected to an EU ban on imports of lemons and oranges after 133 interceptions of pests and diseases were recorded in their merchandise.

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Surge in South African tangerine exports

Surge in South African tangerine exports

South Africa’s tangerine exports are expected to grow by 9% to 420,000 tons in the 2020/21 MY, from 385,000 tons in the 2019/20 MY, based on increased production, a strategy of prioritising exports over domestic sales, and a surge in demand due to COVID-19. Demand for tangerines/mandarins remains strong in the export markets, with the UK the leading export market, accounting for 26% of total exports, followed by the Netherlands (21%), Russia (8%) and the US (6%).  Tangerines/mandarins exports are not impacted by South Africa’s CBS issues in the EU market.

According to USDA data, exports to the United States under the AGOA have grown by an average of 15% per year over the past four seasons, from 7,444 tons in the 2013/14 MY, to 18,690 tons in the 2018/19 MY. This growth trend is expected to continue based on the rising US market preference for easy peelers, and continued duty free market access under AGOA.

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Forecast for South Africa’s orange exports up

Forecast for South Africa’s orange exports up

South Africa’s orange exports are forecast to be up by 2% to 1.32 million tons in the 2020/21 MY, from 1.29 million tons in the 2019/20 MY, according to USDA data. The increase is attributed to a combination of a larger production area and the continued impact of COVID-19. The EU remains South Africa’s largest export market for oranges, accounting for 38% of the total. However, exports to Asia and the Middle East have grown steadily over the years due to the industry’s focus on growing these markets. Exports to the US are expected to continue based on the duty free access under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). However, a gradual shift from oranges to soft citrus exports is expected over time, as South African farmers supplying the US market have been re-planting their orchards from oranges to soft citrus in response to market preferences and the higher premium received in the US market.  Exports to the United States decreased in 2019, due to the shift from oranges to soft citrus and small fruit sizes.

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Rise in South African grapefruit exports expected

Rise in South African grapefruit exports expected
Photo: GROWN4U

South Africa’s grapefruit exports are expected to increase by 2% to 260,000 tons in the 2020/21 MY, due to a rise in production and continued demand for citrus in global markets for health reasons. Europe is the largest market for South African grapefruit exports, accounting for 48% of the total in 2019, followed by Asia (35%). The main European destination is the Netherlands, while China and Japan are the major Asia destinations. Although South Africa has a free trade agreement with the European Union, which allows duty-free access for its citrus exports, South Africa continues to face challenges due to Citrus Black Spot (CBS) and False Coddling Moth (FCM) in the EU market. Industry estimates that it is costing South Africa almost US$118 Million to address the problem and comply with CBS requirements in the EU market.

 

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South African stone fruit targets greater sustainability

South African stonefruit targets greater sustainability
Photo: Beautiful Country, Beautiful Fruit

South Africa’s stone fruit sector is making great strides towards achieving greater sustainability. It is expected that by 2021, 60 stonefruit growers will have participated in the Siza (Sustainability Initiative of South Africa) environmental audit programme that aims to improve sustainability levels, ethical trade and environmental stewardship. Many farms have implemented best-practices such as measuring their water-use efficiencies, using satellite imagery to improve water management, implementing biological and organic farming practices, calculating their carbon footprints and making use of solar panels as an alternative energy resource.

As well as adhereing to international safety standards, farmers also have to comply with the more comprehensive and specific private and commercial standards that ensure an ongoing supply of safe, quality fruit for export markets. 

Meanwhile, the South African government is also encouraging female growers to succeed in the agricultural sector. In addition, PALS was established by fruit farmers with economic growth, job creation and social harmony as its principle goals. The organisation is working to ensure the establishment of successful black farmers as owners of the land: it involves the whole community in an inclusive process, and also provides mentorship and training programmes.

The sector has also launched the Beautiful Country, Beautiful Fruit marketing campaign to promote South African stone fruit in the UK market, with online promotions across the majority of UK retailers.

 

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Tesco named South African Stone Fruit Retailer of the Year 

Tesco named South African Stone Fruit Retailer of the Year 

 

UK retailer Tesco has been recognised by the South African stone fruit sector for its strong performance and promotional support during the 2019-20 season. South African growers’ association Hortgro presents the Stone Fruit Retailer of the Year prize to a UK supermarket each year. According to a statement by Hortgro, Tesco saw a noticeable increase in sales this season, with the retailer selling over three million kilos of South African stone fruit across its stores, with nectarines faring particularly well. 

The retailer organised a range of activities during the campaign, including online promotions, competitions in its staff magazine, and sampling at its head office, featuring South African Supersweet nectarines and peaches, and the ever-popular Flavorking plum variety.

Oliver Bruton, assistant buyer of fresh produce at Tesco, said, “Stone fruit is popular with our customers and we continuously strive to offer high quality produce. South Africa is our biggest sourcing region in the Southern Hemisphere and is an important country in helping us to deliver this. Within our stone fruit range nectarines and peaches remain consistently popular, with Supersweet plums also performing well. South Africa is a strong growing region. We work closely with suppliers in the region to plan effectively, and in the face of some challenges it is still able to deliver quality produce. Whether it’s through our own-label Suntrail range or our premium Tesco Supersweet brand, we aim to provide a strong range of stone fruit to suit all budgets.”

 

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RSA citrus industry limits exports to EU

RSA citrus industry limits exports to EU

 

South Africa has decided to cease exports of specific types of citrus from certain regions in the country to the European Union early this season. The South African government has been asked not to inspect any more shipments of fruit from these regions after 12 September. An industry announcement stated: “At times in the past, the South African citrus industry has voluntarily suspended certain exports to limit potential interceptions of citrus black spot (CBS) symptomatic fruit at the tail end of the season and to protect the long term sustainability of the EU market. Experience has shown that the prevalence of CBS interceptions increases in this period, particularly on late Valencia oranges.”

According to the statement South Africa received 12 notifications of false codling moth (FCM) interceptions from the EU and has implemented stricter measures to mitigate the risk of additional FCM interceptions.

“Although there is only one CBS interception in the EU so far this season, there is a need to also mitigate the total number of interceptions,” the statement read.

The decision was taken by the Citrus Growers’ Association’s (CGA) disaster management committee. In a notice to citrus growers, the committee said the move is a proactive and diligent intervention to demonstrate the industry’s responsible and sustainable risk mitigation.

According to the statement the intervention will be enacted through automatic withdrawal of EU registration of affected orchards on the industry’s PhytClean system, which plays a key role in orchard inspections for fruit exported to the EU.

This will mean that the certification body, PPECB, will not inspect any citrus fruit of the affected types and production regions for shipment to Europe after midnight on 12 September.  

The statement stressed the CBS free areas of the Western and Northern Cape are exempt from the ruling, as well as the low risk Gamtoos and Katriver production regions in the Eastern Cape. Mandarins and other soft citrus are also exempted as a low risk citrus type.

 

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Westfalia launches two new co-owned avocado rootstocks from its breeding and selection programme

Westfalia launches two new co-owned avocado rootstocks from its breeding and selection programme

                                                                                                                                                                                         Press release

The protected plant material will soon be commercially available in South Africa and the USA

TZANEEN, South Africa, 3 August 2020 – Following more than two decades of thorough testing as part of its rootstock breeding and screening programme, the Westfalia Fruit Group is excited to be releasing two new avocado rootstocks, co-owned by Westfalia and The South African Avocado Growers’ Association, for commercial sale under the Merensky name.

Trees of these two new avocado rootstocks are being trademarked under the names of Leola™ (Merensky 6) and Zerala™ (Merensky 5). The novel rootstocks yield healthier trees and better-producing orchards under challenging growing conditions than do other industry-standard rootstocks, as confirmed in recent trials. The rootstocks have been released in the USA and South Africa, with commercial roll-out to be expanded as further trials deliver similarly positive results.

For almost 40 years, Westfalia’s R&D division, Westfalia Technological Services, has been researching disease-tolerant clonal rootstocks to develop selections with superior tree health and yields. The Group’s existing avocado rootstocks Latas® (Merensky 1) and Dusa® (Merensky 2), which were successfully developed and tested over two decades, have enjoyed increasing success with the support of loyal licencees, specifically Brokaw Nurseries from Ventura, California, and its affiliates across the Spanish-speaking world. These rootstocks offer high root-rot tolerance and higher yields, with Dusa® also offering some salinity tolerance. To date, Dusa® has been the top seller among clonally propagated rootstocks worldwide. Protected under Plant Breeders’ Rights, it is grown successfully in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, the USA, South America and South Africa. More than 1.5 million Dusa® trees are sold annually in the commercial market.

Now, with the launch of Leola™ and Zerala™, co-owned by Westfalia and the South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA), growers are presented with higher-yielding rootstocks developed to suit a range of growing conditions around the world. This supports the Group’s reputation as ‘Avocado Experts’ and as a pioneer in the avocado industry, and also enhances Westfalia’s ability to plant sustainable and productive orchards of its own.

The rootstocks were evaluated under a broad range of production conditions in various countries. Demonstrating tolerance to Phytophthora cinnamomi root-rot under heavy infection pressure, Leola™ was shown to outperform Duke 7 – the previous industry-standard rootstock – in initial productivity screening, and even outperformed Dusa® in recent trials. In addition to being selected for its high standard of productivity, Zerala™ is Westfalia’s rootstock of choice for growing in areas facing salinity challenges. Both new rootstocks will continue to undergo large-scale monitored plantings and trials.

South African growers can contact their preferred Avocado Nurserymen’s Association (ANA) accredited nursery directly to enquire about the commercial availability of these rootstocks.

The launch is of great significance to the global avocado industry, making greater yields possible under a range of challenging growing conditions and allowing larger volumes of fruit to be produced and marketed across the globe, to meet growing consumer demand.

 

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The rise and rise of South Africa’s soft citrus

The rise and rise of South Africa’s soft citrus © Eurofresh Distribution
© Alexandra Sautois, Eurofresh Distribution

 

South Africa’s tangerine/mandarin crop is projected to rise by 12% in the 2019/20 campaign, continuing the sector’s strong growth of recent times. Total production is estimated to reach 421,000 tons, mainly due to an increase in production area, normal weather conditions, and improved winter rainfall received in the main production area of the Western Cape. Moreover, many plantings are now reaching maturity. COVID had a minimal impact on labour supply.

South Africa’s tangerine/mandarin exports are expected to be up 16% in 2019/20 to 344,000 tons, due to increased production and the strategy of prioritising export markets over domestic markets. It is likely that COVID-19 has also driven demand due to the assumed health benefits of Vitamin C. Indeed, demand has been strong in the export markets, with the UK leading the way (26% of the total), followed by the Netherlands (21%), Russia (8%) and the US (6%).  

Many new soft citrus orchards in South Africa are under netting to improve water efficiency, yields and the overall quality. In addition, there is an increasing trend to plant late varieties, which has shifted the peak harvest of soft citrus from the beginning of May to mid-May, continuing through to July.