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South Africa’s Lemon and Lime Exports Set To Hit Record High in 2023/24

January 09, 2024

According to the South Africa: Citrus Annual report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, South Africa’s lemon and mandarin/tangerine outputs are projected to increase by 10% and 4% in the 2023/24 season, respectively. However, grapefruit and orange outputs are anticipated to decrease by 5% and 1%, respectively.

Fresh Oranges

The orange cultivation area in South Africa peaked during the 2020/21 season and has since witnessed a decline. It is anticipated that the production area for oranges will decrease by 0.5% in the 2023/24 season. In the primary producing regions of the Western Cape and Limpopo provinces, some orange growers have transitioned to cultivating mandarins and tangerines.

Based on an estimated 1% reduction in the harvested area, orange production in the 2023/24 season is expected to decrease by 1%. Overall, orange-producing regions have experienced abundant rainfall, facilitating efficient irrigation and contributing to the continuation of the relatively high yields observed in the last two seasons.

Owing to the depreciation of the South African rand, which is favorable for exports, alongside a larger volume of oranges available for export, it is forecast that fresh orange exports will grow by 2% in the 2023/24 season. However, industry experts caution that the conditions at the Durban and Cape Town ports are worse than last year, posing a potential threat to the upcoming season.

South Africa’s fresh orange exports to China increased by 33% in the 2021/22 season, reaching 96,892 metric tons, thereby making China the third-largest overseas market for South African oranges. Since 2021, shipping from the Port of Maputo in Mozambique has proven to be a significant breakthrough for the South African citrus industry, resulting in reduced transportation time to China and lower costs. Given that a substantial portion of South Africa’s oranges are produced in the northeast of the country, much closer to the Port of Maputo than the Port of Durban, the former has evolved into a key gateway for South African citrus fruits to enter Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Owing to the numerous challenges faced at the Port of Durban, it is anticipated that a higher proportion of South African oranges will be exported from Maputo in the 2023/24 season.

Fresh Grapefruit

The grapefruit cultivation area is anticipated to remain substantially unchanged at 8,450 hectares in the 2023/24 season, with an expected 5% decline in output. However, grapefruit exports are projected to grow by 6% to 230,000 metric tons.

In the 2021/22 season, China emerged as the largest overseas market for South African grapefruit, accounting for 27% of the total exports, equivalent to 63,470 metric tons. The Netherlands trailed closely behind, accounting for 27% (63,408 metric tons), followed by Japan at 10% (22,866 metric tons) and Russia at 8% (19,429 metric tons).

Fresh Mandarins and Tangerines

The rapid growth in the cultivation area of mandarins and tangerines in South Africa has slowed down, with an estimated 2% increase for the 2023/24 season. Compared with other citrus varieties, the global demand and relatively high profit margins for seedless mandarins and tangerines have captured the interest of farmers, leading to extensive cultivation. However, an increasing number of growers are beginning to question whether the market is already saturated.

Mandarin/tangerine production in the 2023/24 season is projected to experience a 4% increase. As more trees reach maturity in the upcoming years, output is expected to continue growing.

In the 2021/22 season, South Africa exported 520,565 metric tons of mandarins and tangerines, corresponding to 3% growth. During this period, the European Union and the United Kingdom were the primary overseas markets, jointly accounting for 45% of total exports. Other notable destinations included the United States (10%), Russia (10%), the United Arab Emirates (8%) and China (4%).

Fresh Lemons and Limes

The expansion of South Africa’s lemon and lime cultivation area has decelerated, and orchards aged five years or less now represent only 14% of the total area. In fact, the overall planting area is projected to decrease by 4% to 16,900 hectares in the 2023/24 season, while output is forecast to increase by 10%.

Meanwhile, robust market demand is set to drive South Africa’s lemon and lime exports to a historic high, with an anticipated 12% increase in the 2023/24 season. On account of China’s relaxation of cold treatment requirements in August 2021, South Africa’s fresh lemon and lime exports to China reached 9,325 metric tons in the 2021/22 season, marking an impressive 1202% increase. In the first nine months of 2023, exports to China amounted to 10,300 metric tons, signifying a 16% increase compared with the same period of last year.

Image: Pixabay

This article was based on a Chinese article. Read the original article.

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