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The last vessel carrying South African summer citrus for the 2010 season discharged its cargo in Philadelphia the week of Oct. 25, and season-ending totals indicate that shipments were up nearly 24 percent over 2009.

A total of 41,528 tons of citrus comprised of clementines, Navel oranges, Midknight oranges and grapefruit were shipped to the United States from May through October.

This season, the U.S. market received 8,935 tons of clementines (a 29.3 percent increase over 2009), 24,629 tons of Navel oranges and 7,721 tons of Midknight oranges (a 21.90 percent increase in total oranges), and 232 tons of grapefruit (marking the first year of South African grapefruit shipments to the United States).

"Consumer demand for South African summer citrus continues to grow," Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, said in an Oct. 26 press release. “Year over year, we ship more to the United States, and consumers here have made it clear that they like South African citrus in the summer. When it is available to them in the supermarkets, they will buy it.”

South African citrus will be available in stores through mid-November.

The forum made adjustments to its supply chain in 2010. For the first time, smaller reefer vessels were contracted to carry the fruit to the United States. While smaller, these vessels brought fruit to the market every 10 days compared to previous seasons, when larger ships would arrive only every two weeks.

“Both importers and retailers have found this more regular arrival of fruit beneficial to their category management,” Mr. van der Merwe added in the press release. “The schedule provides a continuous and reliable supply, so importers and retailers know what citrus will be available to them for sale.”

The forum moved less fruit than expected to the West Coast during 2010, to which Mr. van der Merwe commented, “Uncharacteristically, the California citrus season lasted much later than usual. As a result, the West Coast marketplace was able to carry California fruit far into the summer. Our plan is to move more fruit to the West in 2011.”

South African citrus exports to the United States began in 1999. All citrus bound for the United States from South Africa undergoes U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections to ensure compliance with U.S. regulations.

South Africa is the second-largest exporter of citrus in the world and produces 60 percent of all citrus grown in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the forum.

Fruit bound for U.S. consumers comes mostly from the regions near Citrusdal and Clanwilliam, about two hours northwest of Cape Town.