South Africa’s 2021 citrus export confirms sustained industry growth

South Africa’s 2021 citrus season is approaching the end. This commodity has been hailed as one of the top exportable products during this season. Other products recorded in a similar manner are: apples and pears, maize, wine, grapes, pineapples and avocados, wool, and nuts, amongst other products.

Citrus Farmer 1

The export growth of citrus is recorded during the time when South African is experiencing one of the worst challenging times. Adding to COVID-19, in July, the country experienced civil unrest expressed through looting and burning of small and big businesses. About 40 000 businesses, including shops, cargo trucks and warehouses, were negatively affected by this unrest. At the same time (July), the country’s state owned company which controls ports and railway transport system, Transnet, experienced cyber-attacks leading to blocking of operations at its cold stores and freights. Despite these huddles data already collected by the end of second quarter of 2021 shows that citrus industry’s exports are projected to reach up to 159 million cartons. This is 9% growth compared to 2020. Leading citrus exporters assert that 40 – 45% of the cartons are destined for European market, while the remaining 55 – 60% is destined for Russian and East Asian markets.  

This resilience and growth of the citrus industry is supported by good rains of 2020/2021 growing season, favorable international prices, improved farming practices and technologies and growing access to market, especially in the East Asia. It is expected that the industry will grow by 500 000 tons over the next 3 to 5 years. In the midst of this growth, logistics to ensure that citrus can be exported timely and in good condition is still a challenge. A Dutch consortium called Flying Swans (Flying Swans) is already working with the local stakeholders and farmers to improve cool logistics through rail and sophisticated consolidation facilities.

Citrus Farmer 2

By Bernard Likalimba (Agricultural Advisor, LAN Pretoria)

Twitter: @Agri_NLinSA