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South African summer citrus season passes midpoint, sees 20 percent rise in shipments

by | September 08, 2010
The South African summer citrus season is progressing according to plan with 30,583 tons of clementines, Navel oranges and grapefruit shipped as of the second week of September.

"We have been delighted with the demand for our citrus this season," Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, said in a Sept. 7 press release.

Mr. van der Merwe, who was in the United States recently visiting retailers and importers, added, "The volume we will achieve this season represents a 20 percent increase over 2009, and we expect all our fruit to be sold by the first week of November."

The forum made a strategic decision at the end of last season to modify its supply chain, leading to more frequent but smaller shipments of fruit, according to Mr. van der Merwe. "Instead of [as] in the past a shipment arriving every three or even four weeks, we chartered smaller reefer ships which have been docking in every 10 to 12 days," he added in the press release. "This has worked very well for us, as we have been able to satisfy demand on a continuous basis, ensuring that retailers have a reliable source of supply throughout the season."

Consumers have responded by buying and enjoying the fruit, which the forum said has an excellent Brix-to-acid ratio.

"Other providers offer fruit with a high acid taste, which is not in favor among U.S. consumers," Mr. van der Merwe said in the press release. "That sweet flavor combined with the good eating quality of our fruit's firm juicy texture has become a favorite of U.S. consumers."

South African citrus exports to the United States began in 1999, and all citrus from South Africa undergoes USDA inspections to ensure compliance with U.S. regulations.

"The rigorous inspection in South Africa and here in the U.S. assures the fruit meets and exceeds all regulations for import. It does not undergo any chemical application from a fumigation process that potentially shortens the shelf life of the fruit," Mr. van der Merwe said in the press release.

All citrus from South Africa comes to the United States through the port of Gloucester, NJ, along the Delaware River in the greater Philadelphia area. An additional 9,769 tons will arrive in the next six to eight weeks for a total of 40,352 tons shipped for the 2010 season.