SOUTH AFRICA – Berda Fruit Hong Kong, China based importer of fruit from the Southern Hemisphere countries, has commenced operations at its fully funded packhouse in South Africa under Cheetah Pack.

The new fruit packing plant is aimed to boost South Africa’s already-strong citrus export volumes to China.

The 3 000 sqm Cheetah Pack facility in Addo on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, features state-of-the-art packing-line technology from Ganzhou-based fruit sorting and grading machine manufacturer, Reemoon.

It has a daily pack capacity of 120 to 150 bins of soft citrus, 200 to 220 bins of lemons and 300 to 350 bins of oranges a day, reports Fresh Plaza.

Pierneef Smit, one of Cheetah’s directors, said, “We started discussing the possibility of our own pack house six years ago, as a means to procure enough fruit for the Chinese market but also to alleviate the packing constraints in the valley with the recent strong growth in citrus volumes.”

The unit will majorly pack fruit for Berda Agricultural Consulting but will also offer contract packing to other citrus growers.

Neville Smith, Chief Operating Officer for Cheetah, said, “We’re here not only for big producers but also for smaller producers, and we will have an open-door policy.”

The pack house is but a first phase of establishing an all-encompassing fruit export complex in the Kirkwood area.

Subsequent phases are said to include de-greening and research facilities, the latter being planned in partnership with Huida Lemons in Chongqing, north-west of Ganzhou.

South Africa to start cold treatment for oranges destined for Europe

Launch of the packaging facility comes at a time when the South African citrus market is expected to start loading out oranges to Europe under the new cold regime.

The new directive was expected to commence by 14 July 2022, but South Africa requested for a grace period to start applying the new regulation of precooling and shipping temperatures of between -1°C to 0° C for minimum 16 days or -1° C and 2°C at minimum 20 days (a slight amelioration of precooling to 5° C followed by 25 days of cold treatment is required until the end of the year).

Regulation 2022/959 equally affects Southern African countries, some of which are expected to adopt South Africa’s rules, but using their own export regime codes.

Europe makes up around 40% to 50% of South Africa’s orange exports, valued at a billion euros per year. This season the total orange crop is estimated at well over 80 million 15kg cartons.

Much of the oranges for Europe have always been loaded at ambient temperature, a fact which has facilitated the steady flow of South Africa’s longstanding orange trade with Europe.

The CEO of the Citrus Growers Association, Justin Chadwick, who describes the haste with which the new regulation were adopted notes, “86.6% of South African oranges exported to the EU in 2021 were loaded under codes specified in the risk management system that do not require pre-cooling.”

False codling moth interceptions on South African citrus in general and oranges specifically have been declining every year since it was declared a quarantine pest three years ago.

A category like organic oranges has never had a single FCM interception but is equally and disproportionately penalized.

The effect on the cold chain and the supply chain and concomitant costs will be grave, perhaps less so for the Western Cape which has more cooling capacity with the province’s table grape cold rooms.

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