South Africa has packed 126 million cartons of citrus fruit for export to countries around the world this year, and remains the second largest global exporter of citrus fruit. Despite events beyond the grower’s control, such as drought and container terminal delays, the industry continues to bring R20 billion rand into the country as export revenue. While the packed total is lower than last year’s bumper crop of 136 million boxes, production remains very high and a valuable source of both income and jobs for South Africa.
Dry conditions in the northern areas of the country have severely affected some growers and squeezed production levels. Fortunately, South Africa has such a diverse spread of growing regions that the decline remains within the acceptable targets established by the industry. While oranges and grapefruit production has suffered, soft citrus and lemons have exceeded last year’s production – where one major region suffered a decline, other regions offered rich pickings with production over their original estimates, balancing out the scales.
The extended strike at the Ngqura Container Terminal near Port Elizabeth, as well as ongoing problems with infrastructure, staff and logistics at all South African ports, have proved a nightmare for fresh produce exporters. The Citrus Growers’ Association has actively engaged with Minister for Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan to resolve the problems. Minister Gordhan visited the Durban port on Monday to engage with exporters in the hope of finding constructive solutions to the problem.
The citrus industry exports to over 100 countries around the world, and supports 120 000 jobs. With support from the government to expand market access and improve port infrastructure, the industry is poised to drive the increased agricultural exports sought by Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni in his national economic strategy. – Citrus Growers Association.