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South African summer citrus growers end successful season

by Tad Thompson | November 22, 2009
The 2009 South African citrus export season has come to a close, and industry leaders have deemed it a success.

"The quality of our citrus this season has been excellent," Joretha Geldenhuys, the recently appointed chief executive officer of the Western Cape Citrus Producers' Forum, said in a Nov. 9 press release. "The last shipments, Midknights, arrived in Philadelphia in containers on October 28, and all have been pre-sold."

While the overall tonnage exported in 2009 will equal 2008's nearly 35,000 tons, the mix of product was different in 2009. "We exported less Navels and more clementines this year in anticipation of Chile's first-ever Navel exports to the United States, and this strategy worked well for our export program," Ms. Geldenhuys said in the press release.

She added that South African Navels were differentiated by their excellent quality resulting in higher achieved prices than competitive products. "We have always maintained that we will only ship premium-quality citrus to the United States, and we will continue to do so to enhance our reputation among both retailers and consumers for nutritious, tasty, seedless and easy-to-peel citrus products."

Ms. Geldenhuys said in the press release that South African growers will be discussing the possibility of adding grapefruit to their product offerings next year. Industry sources indicated that the grapefruit would largely be sourced from the Northern Cape, and that there is not yet U.S. Department of Agriculture phytosanitary approval to export that fruit to the United States.

According to the Forum, South Africa is the second-largest exporter of citrus in the world and produces 60 percent of all citrus grown in the Southern Hemisphere. Other than the United States, South Africa's key export markets are the European Union, the Far East, the Middle East, Russia and the rest of Africa.

The South African fruit bound for U.S. consumers comes mostly from the Elephant's Valley region between the towns of Citrusdal and Clanwilliam, about two hours northwest of Cape Town; and the Northern Cape, near Kimberley.