“Unusual opening for South Africa’s 2024 citrus season”

The citrus season in South Africa’s 2024 has begun in an odd way and producers are struggling to figure out the volume of production. It’s a result of extremely hot temperatures in the growing season at the close of the year. With some rainfall expected and a change in sizing, things could be drastically altered, according to Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association (CGA): “There’s a lot of doubt because of the extremely hot temperatures during the growth season of November through December as well as early spring rainfall. This is a unique season where producers struggle to control the volume of their production. In the event of a little rain, the conditions could alter. When the fruit falls just one ounce, they could be able to lose 10% of their fruit. This can result in significant impact on amount.”

Image by Lucentlands The photo shows a citrus orchard located in South Africa.

The official says that while they’ve released their first estimation for the season however, the CGA estimates have proven to be accurate over the years. “There’s lots of unanswered questions. When we begin packing, we’ll have more of an idea by at the close of April. And by towards the end of May, you’ll get a much better plan. The packing process has already has begun in earnest just after Easter. In the first week of each year we begin with lemons, and we’ve already packed more than three million boxes for the whole year. Grapefruit is the next one to be ramped up. We’re just beginning the process with grapefruit right now. After that, it’s Satsumas, Clementines, then the first step is Navals in the near future, and eventually in the process of Valencias.”

Logistics and port challenges remain

South Africa’s logistic and port problems continue to be a major issue for South Africa’s port and logistics. However, there is some possibility with the new Transnet Director of Operations Michelle Phillips and her team. The private sector’s involvement of the ports to aid the government can be a possibility, however it is likely to be delayed by litigation. “We trust 100% with Michelle Phillips and the team who are working on her and with the proper financial and support we can witness a significant improvement at the port. It’s crucial to keep in touch together with Mitchell Brook from the CGA who has a regular phone call to Transnet.”

A new and growing market accessibility

The Vietnam market has just opened to coincide with South Africa’s 2024 season. Chadwick claims that although volumes may not be massive however, they’ll grow in this market. “We recently entered Vietnam which is a new market, and while we may be unable to handle huge quantities at first but when networks are improved and exporters establish channels. We will soon see volumes begin to increase. India is crucial to us as well. We’re not permitted to use in-transit cold treatments, we can see enormous potential in India with the right cooperation along with the Department of Agriculture and the PPECB. In the US we have access only to Western as well as Northern Cape citrus. We would like to see that the remaining South African zones of production will have access for all kinds of categories. Japan does not allow Clementines in that market. The Japanese do not allow us to export the mandarins of our late generation and production figures have been increasing. The goal is to maximize our market access.”

The main message of the CGA for Southern African producers and exporters is that there’ll abundant fruit for every market. “There’s enough fruits to provide to any market that needs the fruits. This looks like a high quality year. We’ll need to observe how the size changes as we move further into the year. But it will likely to be getting better. We’ll be working closely with our logistics partners to ensure that we get our product on time onto the market. We’ll ensure that we adhere to phytosanitary rules even if we do not accept it. We’re looking forward to the development that was promised within the Vision 360,” concludes Chadwick.

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Justin Chadwick

Citrus Growers Association

Email: justchad@cga.co.za

Source: The Plantations International Agroforestry Group of Companies