South Africa drops its soft citrus export estimate

South Africa’s soft citrus focus group last week again slightly dropped its soft citrus export estimate, by 300,000 cartons to a current estimate of 29.2 million 15kg equivalent cartons, mostly due to smaller sizing. The estimate is still significantly up against last year’s 23.6 million cartons and it’s a trend expected for the foreseeable future; South Africa has been establishing many new soft citrus orchards.

The late mandarin harvest is just kicking off in the northern parts of South Africa. The estimate adjustment at the moment reflect on the clementine and Nova harvests which are winding down in the Western and Eastern Cape; there has been no change in the late mandarin forecast at this stage (some expect another adjustment during the season).

Smaller sizing has resulted in lower packouts and fewer cartons packed per hectare in some areas. In the north, excellent summer rainfall boosted water security and a heavy crop set on the trees. However, long periods of overcast conditions slowed down growth and the expected fruit size didn’t materialise. In the Senwes area, bordering Limpopo and Mpumalanga, soft citrus growers report the usual size distribution.

In the Eastern Cape, the impact of the drought in the Gamtoos Valley can be seen in its fruit sizing (although internal quality is excellent, growers note). In the Western Cape there are also reports of smaller soft citrus, but it is not universally reported by Boland growers. At this stage in the season, exports are roughly a million cartons ahead of 2020, with 7.2 million cartons of soft citrus shipped.

The UK has been the biggest recipient, with 29% of volumes by last week, with the EU second (21%). Both of those figures are down compared to last year this time. There has recently been an uptick in soft citrus exports to North America.

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