Something is literally in the water for citrus growers in South Africa, as the region is continuing to experience strong growth of soft citrus, oranges, and lemons this year.
According to a report by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and the Global Agricultural Network, the production and export of soft citrus, lemons and limes is expected to continue its strong growth in the 2018/19 MY, and it is all thanks to:
- the increase in area planted
- high level of new-plantings coming into full production
- improved water management techniques by farmers who have been forced to adapt to the frequent drought conditions
Duty free exports of citrus to the United States under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) are expected to continue their strong annual growth, as the United States is still considered a premium market.
Citrus in South Africa is grown across the country mainly in the Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Kwa Zulu Natal, Northern Cape and North West provinces. The report also specifies that:
While oranges are the biggest citrus type produced in South Africa and account for 58 percent of the total citrus area planted, there has been notable growth in the area planted to soft citrus and lemons/limes. This growth is driven by the attractive investment returns and profit margins from soft citrus and lemon production.
The production of oranges is estimated to increase by 3 percent to 1.60 million MT in the 2018/19 MY, from 1.55 million MT in the 2017/18 MY. This is due to the rise in area planted, better water management techniques by farmers, and industry shifts to high yielding and late maturing varieties. This was partially offset by dry conditions, smaller fruit sizes and hail damage in some growing regions.
The production of tangerines/mandarins is estimated to increase by 9 percent to 305,000 MT in the 2018/19 MY, from 280,000 MT in the 2017/18 MY. This is due to the rise in area planted, improved water management techniques by farmers and the high level of new-plantings in the past years coming into full production. There is a growing trend of farmers aggressively establishing new orchards under netting which has improved the water efficiency and the overall quality of soft citrus production in South Africa.
Lemons and Limes
The production of lemons/limes is estimated to increase by 7 percent to 490,000 MT in the 2018/19 MY, from 460,000 MT in the 2017/18 MY. This is due to the rise in area planted, and the high level of new plantings in the past five years coming into full production.
It is worth noting however, that things are going a little different for grapefruits. The production of grapefruit is estimated to decrease marginally by 1 percent to 415,000 MT in the 2018/19 MY, from 419,000 MT in the 2017/18 MY. This is due to the smaller than normal fruit sizes in some growing regions, which experienced high heat and dry conditions. Furthermore, grapefruit production tends to be cyclical and the 2018/19 MY is a down year. This was partially offset by the increase in area planted.
Interestingly enough though, Grapefruit consumption in South Africa is estimated to increase to 7,500 MT in the 2018/19 MY, from 7,000 MT in the 2017/18 MY. This is due to the rise in production, some of the lower sized fruit that does not meet export standards being diverted to the domestic fresh market, and to the growing awareness and perceived health benefits of grapefruit in the domestic market.