“The ‘South African Summer Citrus’ program is a complement to the U.S. domestic citrus program,” said Suhanra Conradie, chief executive officer of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum based in Citrusdal, South Africa. “It has been the model of the consortium of growers approved to export to the U.S. to not compete with the domestic citrus, but rather to complement it arriving in the U.S. after the domestic season is completed. Our citrus will continue to arrive into September and will be available through October in the marketplace.”
The WCCPF’s extensive summer citrus program includes Clementines, Navel oranges, Cara Cara oranges, Midknight oranges and Star Ruby grapefruit. Its citrus fruits are produced primarily in the region near Citrusdal, about two hours northwest of Cape Town, the Northern Cape near Kimberly, and the northwest along the Orange River, near Upington.
South Africa’s citrus imports to the United States begin in early July with Clementines and early Navels. The demand for Clementines, or easy peelers, is expanding. The majority arrive through July, while the volumes of Navels increase through July, August and towards mid-September. Navels are popular during August and September, with the back to school time frame being a high-demand period.
“Midknight oranges are delicious and very much in demand in late September and October,” said Conradie. “The Cara Cara oranges are a red fleshed orange and are brilliant in flavor. Star Ruby grapefruit volumes will arrive throughout the season and more will be shipped into the U.S. in 2013 than in previous years. Over the last several years we have shipped about 41,000 tons of citrus to the U.S. We expect to remain at, or around that same number for 2013.”
South Africa joins Spain and Turkey as among the largest producers of summer citrus. Fruit produced in South Africa reaches every part of the globe with only three percent being imported to the United States.
Conradie noted that this season the WCCPF has expanded its promotional activity in supermarkets. There are more sampling programs underway in a more expanded footprint across the United States.
“Many of the sampling programs include chefs creating our recipes right there in the supermarkets so customers can see how they can incorporate ‘South African Summer Citrus’ into their overall meal planning,” explained Conradie. “This season, our recipes are more regionalized. Because domestic citrus is not available during the summer months, it can’t be considered local —something we know is important to consumers. However, what we can and have done is incorporate citrus into favorite regional recipes.”
An example she offers is a citrus lobster roll and salad that has proven popular in New England. Citrus barbeque and meat recipes are being well received in the Midwest. Grower visits in supermarkets continue to be popular as customers like meeting those who are responsible for the product being available to them.
“Perhaps as popular as the citrus itself is King Citrus, the ‘South African Summer Citrus’ mascot,” added Conradie. “He has been visiting stores and iconic locations across the U.S. this summer. The lion is unique to the WCCPF logo and brand and to South Africa, and he personifies, if you will, the ‘Pride of Our Land,’ our trademarked tagline.”
She also noted that all of the company’s promotional initiatives are aimed at firming the brand of “South African Summer Citrus” as memorable and unique among other options available to consumers.
“Also, growth potential for our citrus products in the U.S. includes having more of our product available beyond the eastern part of the country and into the Midwest and beyond,” said Conradie. While our citrus has had a presence there, we see growth opportunity in these regions and we have a greater promotional presence in them this season.”
The WCCPF continues to strongly support the Consulate of South Africa in New York. Conradie said the willingness of the Consul General and other Consuls to participate in its promotional programs and to include WCCPF in their programs has increased the visibility of the “South African Summer Citrus” brand.
“The program itself is very important to the economics of South Africa as well as in the U.S. because of the number of jobs it creates and maintains,” she said. “This season is a positive one for us. The quality of the product continues to be the hallmark of ‘South African Summer Citrus,’ and that is the most important thing we do —send only the best fruit that we produce to the U.S. market.”
The WCCPF is comprised of 236 growers based in the Western and Northern Cape regions of South Africa.
Before the citrus leaves South Africa, it is inspected and pre-cleared by both South African inspectors and inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who remain at the Port of Cape Town for the duration of the South Africa Summer Citrus season. This assures only the best of the best is shipped to the United States. On arrival in the United States, it is inspected again.
The inspection process makes it unique to any other citrus program. Only the best citrus comes to the U.S. and it is safe, clean, delicious and chemical free when it arrives on the shelves.