Simon Segal reports on booming fruit export markets
SOUTH Africa’s citrus exports are now expected by Outspan, the industry’s international marketing arm, to be a record 34 million 15kg cartons.
This should earn R1,4-billion and is three million cartons higher than last season at a value of
R1,2-billion, and two million more than the 1992 record.
By mid-July Outspan had already shipped half its expected export crop.
Outspan chief executive John Stanbury explains that the citrus season in the northern hemisphere ended earlier than usual and volumes were lower in South America.
Outspan exports 30 citrus fruit varieties, of which the largest are Valencia oranges (17-million cartons, 10 percent up on last season), navel oranges (8,5-million cartons, eight percent more than last season) and grapefruit (6,5-million cartons, 10 percent up). The two million lemon cartons are the same as last year.
The biggest growth is in “easy peelers” such as clementines, where output has doubled to 2,5-million cartons.
South Africa is the fourth largest citrus exporter in the world. Local deciduous fruit exporters are also having a successful season.
Exports, Unifruco estimates, should reach a record 44-million cartons this year and bring in R1,8-billion in foreign exchange.
Last year 37,3-million cartons earned R1,5-billion (of which farmers received around R700-million), down from the previous record year in 1992, when 41-million cartons were sent abroad and earned R1,7-billion, of which R985-million went to growers.
The industry is one of South Africa’s great export success stories. In 1988 export revenue was only R764-million, from 30-million cartons.
Unifruco projects exporting 52-million cartons by 1997 and some 100-million by the end of the century, earning nearly R5-billion in today’s prices and at today’s exchange rate.
This means fruit is challenging coal, platinum and ferroalloys as South Africa’s biggest export after gold.
It will also replace maize as the largest contributor to total agricultural earnings.