Clementines and Navel oranges from South Africa arrived June 26 at the Gloucester Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, on the refrigerated vessel, Iberian Reefer, with 2,621 pallets of citrus comprised of 1,096 pallets of clementines and 1,525 pallets of Navel oranges. The fruit will be distributed to supermarkets and other retail stores across the United States.
The ship's arrival marks the official beginning of the 13th season of shipments of South African citrus to the United States. The program began in 1999 with 50 metric tons and has grown substantially, with more than 41,000 metric tons received last year. A vessel with citrus from South Africa arrives in the United States every 10 to 12 days to assure that the best quality fruit is fresh and available inthe marketplace.
Consumer demand for South African summer citrus has been increasing, as the citrus is recognized as a sweet, delicious and nutritious staple to the summer menus and meals, according to the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, whose members grow fruit under strict quality and phytosanitary specifications for export to the U.S. marketplace.
Growers in the forum expect consumers will be especially pleased with the taste, texture and overall eating quality of this season's crop. There is a very large quantity of citrus on the trees and weather and growing conditions have been ideal to increase the fruit's Brix levels. Additionally, cooler weather has turned the fruit a brilliant orange color that appeals to consumers.
"We expect to see continued growth in our exports to meet the increasing U.S. demand for our excellent quality of citrus products," Suhanra Conradie, chief executive officer of the forum, said in a June 27 press release. "Clementines comprise the larger percentage of early-season shipments, followed by Navel Cara Cara, and Midknight oranges. A small quantity of Star Ruby grapefruit also will ship to the U.S."
South African citrus will continue through October with approximately 46,000 metric tons expected this season.
With a keen awareness of U.S. consumers' demand for safe, healthy food choices, the citrus is inspected multiple times, first at the packinghouses in South Africa, then in Cape Town prior to loading onto the vessel and finally on arrival in the United States.
"Because our fruit is maintained at cold temperatures close to - 0.55° Celsius (33°F) during shipment, it does not require chemical fumigation on arrival as does citrus from other Southern Hemisphere countries," Ms. Conradie added in the press release. "This cold shipment extends the shelf life of the fruit and further and, more important, avoids the need to apply unnecessary chemicals to the fruit."
During May, a small number of pallets arrived on container vessels carrying mostly clementines and a few pallets of Navel oranges. The container vessels are intended to meet the growing early-season demand for South African citrus.
"The fruit takes times to ripen and achieve the high level of sweetness U.S. consumers prefer," Ms. Conradie added in the press release. "Only small amounts of fruit are available and are shipped early in the season on containers."
The marketing initiatives by the forum to promote South African summer citrus have continued to increase, featuring in-store promotions that include grower visits, and the creation of new recipes for standard, vegetarian and vegan options.
Additionally, the forum's relationship with youth soccer has expanded with participation at various regional and national tournaments across the country, and the creation of the first Summer Citrus Soccer Star Award to be presented to select players. (www.summercitrus.com/soccer-star/)
According to the forum, South Africa is the second largest exporter of citrus in the world next to Spain, producing 60 percent of all citrus fruits grown in the Southern Hemisphere. Other than the United States, South Africa's primary export markets include the European Union, Far East, Middle East, Russia, the United Kingdom and the rest of Africa.