SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa is set to access the lucrative Philippines citrus fruit market, following the conclusion of negotiations that stretched over 12 years, further expanding the bullish South African citrus industry.

The work plan to export South African citrus to the Philippines was signed between the Department Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and the Philippines Bureau of Plant and Industry at the end of 2020.

Marking the historic occasion, a delegation from the Citrus Growers’ Association of South Africa (CGA) visited the Port of Durban earlier this week to send off the first South African shipment of citrus to the South Asia country.

“Expanding access to new overseas markets is crucial if we want to avoid an oversupply of the region’s exports to our existing markets.”

CGA CEO – Justin Chadwick

According to reports by Fresh Plaza, the Philippines market presents an export potential of 20 000 t of citrus fruit, with yearly export earnings of close to R205-million (US$15m) and additional job opportunities.

CGA CEO Justin Chadwick says the opening of the market also comes at a time when the South African citrus industry is expected to grow by a further 500 000 t over the next three to five years.

“Expanding access to new overseas markets is crucial if we want to avoid an oversupply of the region’s exports to our existing markets,” he says.

In terms of the current export season, the soft citrus-producing regions of South Africa are expected to show the most significant growth (up 29% from 2020) with mandarins expected to grow by 42% within this category.

This category makes up the biggest volumes of citrus imported by the Philippines, with over 80 000 t imported between 2016 and 2018 out of a total of 117 000 t of citrus imported over that period.

To date, Argentina and Australia have been the largest exporters of mandarins from the southern hemisphere to the Philippines.

However, Chadwick hopes that the South African citrus industry will surpass these countries as the main supplier of soft citrus to the Philippines over the next few years.

The CGA said it would continue working with the government to open and expand access to other key markets, including China, the US, India, Japan, Vietnam and the EU, thereby contributing towards job creation and inclusive growth.

Last year, the sector enjoyed a record-breaking export season, with 146 million cartons of fruit, and it is set to enjoy another record-breaking export season this year.    

Other than growth in production of soft citrus, USDA in a recent report indicated that South Africa will produce360,000t of grapefruit in the 2020/21, a 1% rise from 358,000t of 2019/20.

The country also abounds with orange fruits. Production of the fruit is forecast to increase by 3 percent to 1.70 million tonnes from 1.65 million tonnes.

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