23/10/2017 | Ingles

South African soft citrus volume ends higher than expected

The South African citrus season is almost at its very end and FreshPlaza spoke to Martina Odendaal who is chair of the CGA soft citrus variety group.

The latest estimate of the current season's soft citrus volume has been updated to 13.4 million cartons, of which 13 million had been shipped by the end of week 41. It’s up from 12.2 million in 2016, when almost 183,000t of soft citrus was exported.

“It’s no secret that there is growth in the soft citrus sector in South Africa but an awareness is being cultivated among growers in the industry to plant with responsibility,” Martina says. “There is a lot of information and a lot of expertise available to growers in the South African industry. There are often road shows organised by the CGA and, with the availability of very good information, it is possible to make reliable estimates which guide our growers and exporters.”

She emphasises the importance of communicating with growers in the Northern Hemisphere, as all industries are extending their citrus seasons. “We can’t remain on our own little island. It’s in the beginning stages, but we’re aiming to reach out to the industry in the Northern Hemisphere. We definitely see the necessity to share information. However there is still a lack of information available on global production and consumption trends, the variability in the available data as well as, in the case of soft citrus, and the lack of differentiation between the various soft citrus types like Satsumas, Clementines and other Mandarins.”

In the growth of soft citrus, there is a greater emphasis on the late varieties, specifically late mandarins like the Nadorcott, but there are also increased plantings of Tango, Leanri, Nova, Orri and ARCLS (ARC Low-Seeded) amongst other varieties. Last year’s budwood sales for mandarins were close to 2 million. Early varieties like Satsumas have reliable markets and therefore she expects those volumes to remain steady.

In 2016, Nadorcotts made up the largest proportion of exported soft citrus (over 3 million x 15kg cartons), followed by Nova (1.9 million) and clementines (1.69 million).

This year mandarin exports rose to more than 8 million x 15kg cartons, compared to fewer than 7 million last year. Clementines also saw a slight increase.

Steady growth in Russian and Southeast Asian markets, slight drop in volumes to the EU and UK

“There are so many good opportunities to be developed. The UK and the EU are still our biggest markets but there are underserviced and undeveloped markets. We’re seeing steady growth in the Far East and in Russia,” she says. As for Africa, despite its currency problems, she regards that as an important part of the bigger picture. 

In 2017 (YTD), the UK took 31% and the EU 26% of South Africa’s soft citrus, compared to 35% and 28% respectively last year, YTD. Southeast Asia and the Russian Federation both currently stand at 10%, both 2% higher than 2016 YTD figures. Next is North America (9%) and the Middle East (8%).

“Overall, the past season was a good one for soft citrus, along with other varieties in the citrus basket, like Valencias and grapefruit. There were some challenges like high summer temperatures, the drought in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape and excessive rain in the North, while Novas struggled with split ends and decay. Marketers sent the right fruit to markets capable of handling it, and there was good cooperation.”

She continues: "Demand stimulation; be it in the form of expanding access to new markets, improving export terms in existing markets or getting existing consumers to up their consumption by means of promotions and the like still need to be further explored. Our fruit has a good reputation based on internal quality and sweetness and we’re seeing consumer consciousness growing of the high quality of South African soft citrus.”

“When I see a toddler taking a mandarin, peeling it by herself, and popping it into her mouth, piece by piece, I just know there’s still so much growth possible for this fruit. It really is a privilege to be part of the citrus industry. It’s a dynamic, growing industry. I believe: look every opportunity in the eye and make the most of it. We have the expertise and the information to make that happen.”

Source: freshplaza.com