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Shaping the Future of South Africa’s Citrus Sector

May 04, 2023

In mid-March, the fourth CGA Citrus Summit was held by the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa in the South African city of Gqeberha. Among the plenary speakers at the event was Tracy Davids, director of commodity markets and foresight at the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, a South African nonprofit organization, who discussed possibilities for shaping the future of the South African citrus sector. The bureau expects that up to 4,000 hectares of citrus orchards in South Africa may be phased out over the next 10 years as a result of multiple internal and external challenges. Meanwhile, market prices for citrus fruits, which have hit their lowest point in recent years, are expected to rebound in the next decade while production costs are anticipated to drop.

Citrus cultivation in South Africa has experienced rapid growth since 2010, with the planted areas for oranges, mandarins/tangerines and lemons/limes increasing by 8,000 hectares (21%), 23,000 hectares (446%) and 14,000 hectares (295%), respectively. However, a large proportion of mandarin/tangerine trees are still young and have not yet reached their peak production.

In the three years between 2019 and 2022, South Africa’s citrus exports grew significantly, with exports of oranges, mandarins/tangerines and lemons/limes increasing by 31%, 86% and 62%, respectively. During this period, export prices for oranges and mandarins/tangerines increased by 16% and 12%, respectively, while those for lemons/limes dropped by 11%.

Davids indicated that the growth of the South African citrus sector in the next few years will be moderate on account of various factors, such as the current economic environment, dwindling consumer purchasing power and increased output. The bureau also predicts 2023 to be a year full of challenges but expects some improvements thereafter.

Several risks facing the South African citrus sector were also identified at the summit, including logistical disruptions, increased labor costs, adverse weather and climate conditions, fiercer market competition, exchange rate fluctuations, stricter market requirements implemented by the European Union, and wars and conflicts. Because of these risks, some citrus growers may quit the industry.

In response, the bureau proposed three strategies for improving the industry, namely, increasing the production and exports of popular citrus varieties, reducing the risk of oversupply through an early-warning mechanism and information sharing, and securing better policies for the South African citrus sector via intergovernmental negotiations.

Image: Pixabay

This article was translated from Chinese. Read the original article.


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