Citrus exports excel despite global trade disruptions

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) secretariat recently released a warning that global trade could be disrupted. At play was Brexit followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19, forever altering global trade policies.

For two consecutive weeks into August, the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) reported increased volumes of cartons in grapefruit and soft citrus. To date, 2 million tons of citrus have been exported with 60% of crops dispatched for markets.

“The European demand for citrus is also evident in the early Valencia distribution – increasing from 37% to 48%, largely due to a decrease to the Middle East from 19% to 12%” said Justin Chadwick, CEO for CGA.

The Brexit showdown was poised to disturb trade flows of horticultural products. However, early signs showed that South Africa’s citrus enjoyed profitable yields in the United Kingdom market.

When the Brexit agenda was still a hotly debated topic, most agricultural economists agreed that the arrangement would most probably benefit RSA’s citrus exports, as growers will pay next to nothing on duties throughout the year.

According to FNB agricultural economist, Paul Makube, citrus exports particularly lemons served a complex barometer from June 2020.

“Lemons exported were down 48% y/y at 587, 587 cartons which nonetheless raised the YTD figure to 21.33 million cartons which is up by 32% y/y” he said.

The international fresh produce news online platform Fresh Plaza, reported that it would be the first season South Africa exported more lemons than navels.

“The export estimate for lemons is 26.722 million 15kg cartons this season. The initial navel export estimate of 26.5 million 15kg cartons now stands at a revised 25.8 million cartons.”

Makube said the soft citrus volumes of shipment rose by 12% y/y to 991,429 cartons reaching 16.8 million cartons, a 35% increase.

Remarkably, Asia was considered a new market but its percentage of lemons dropped from 20% to 12% respectively. 

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