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South Africa’s ambassador to the United States, the Hon. Ebrahim Rasool, joined the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum Aug. 16 in Philadelphia to host members of Congress and their representatives, and other partners in the fruit import business, at an event to highlight the importance of South African summer citrus and how expanded trade between Africa and the United States benefits the regional and broader U.S.

The Hon. Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the United States, in front of the Sea Phoenix, the large vessel that transported 24,000 cartons of South African Navels and Clementines to the terminal in Gloucester City, NJ. (Photos courtesy of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum)
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“This is an exciting moment for us,” Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the forum and co-host of the event, said in an Aug. 16 press release. “Since we began shipping citrus to the U.S. in 1999, we have built a program from some 50 tons shipped then to more than 40,000 tons to be shipped this year. This program has helped build a category of summer citrus in the U.S. where before citrus in the summer months was less available.”

The forum is a consortium of 350 growers approved to export their citrus to the United States.

Ambassador Rasool, former premier (governor) of South Africa’s Western Cape Province, pointed out that the trade preferences that the United States extends to African countries under the African Growth & Opportunity Act are underpinning the emergence of a new middle class of consumers in Africa, 300 million strong, spurring demand for American goods and services.

“There is growing empirical evidence that AGOA is a win-win proposition,” Mr. Rasool said in the press release. “As access to the U.S. market stimulates growth in Africa, this in turn generates demand for imports from the U.S. and elsewhere, creating jobs and opportunities for U.S. exporters in a virtuous cycle.”

“We are pleased the ambassador chose to recognize our program,” Mr. van der Merwe added in the press release. “It represents many thousands of hardworking families and workers all along the supply chain from South Africa and across the ocean to here in New Jersey and beyond.”

The forum was joined by the Citrus Growers of Southern Africa in hosting the event.

Those attending at the Holt Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, had the opportunity to observe the discharging of the Sea Phoenix, a vessel carrying Navels and Clementines. Through the season, which runs from June through October, a refrigerated vessel similar to the Sea Phoenix arrives at Holt Marine Terminal every 10 days. Fruit is transported from here to retail distribution sites and supermarkets across the United States. The frequency of the ships’ arrival assures that importers, retailers and consumers receive the freshest fruit on a regular and reliable basis, according to the forum.

“We are honored to attend this important event that emphasizes the strong connections between North America and South Africa,” Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, added in the press release. “This business has a very positive effect on jobs here in our region, jobs in South Africa, and the availability of fresh citrus for consumers across North America.”

South Africa is the world’s second-largest exporter of citrus, producing 60 percent of all citrus grown in the Southern Hemisphere. The fruit exported to the United States comes mainly from the region between the towns of Citrusdal and Clanwilliam, about two hours northwest of Cape Town, and the Northern Cape, near Kimberley.