It’s a Citrus Celebration in South Africa
From lemons and limes to oranges and grapefruits, citrus fruits provide a burst of sunshine any time of year. The rich vibrant colors of the citrus season have emerged in South Africa, bringing excitement as local warehouses are busy packing for global refrigerated exports, making their way to markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Citrus is one of the most widely grown fruit crops in the world. Originating in Southeast Asia, the fruit has grown in tropical and subtropical regions for centuries, and over time, has spread to major production hubs in the Mediterranean. Citrus fruits come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, each with their very own signature aroma and unique growing requirements, and they also happen to be incredibly nutritious.
While citrus fruits are widely accessible year-round, these fragrant superfruits are ready for harvest in the winter. South Africa’s citrus industry is a driving force of the country’s economy, driven by dedicated growers who deliver quality produce. The season lasts for approximately 28 weeks, starting with lemons and grapefruit in late March, and continues until October when the final oranges are picked. Among the 400 orange varieties, the Valencia, which is the most recognizable, is also the main type of orange exported out of Durban.
Apples, pears, and grapes make up the deciduous fruit, the second largest group exported throughout the year, mainly from Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
South Africa’s refrigerated cargo industry stands out both locally and globally, with the citrus market experiencing rising demand as consumers around the world are constantly looking for ways to get their healthy supplements. Fortunately, South Africa is currently the second largest exporter of fresh citrus in the world, accounting for 10% of the global market. Durban exports over 60%, making it the largest exporter of citrus fruit in the Southern Hemisphere.
The evolving COVID reality greatly influenced South Africa in all aspects of the cold chain – from local growers and stevedores to the drivers loading the fruit, alongside limited cold storage capacity, and port congestion causing major vessel delays.
But, despite these common challenges, the South African citrus industry has been thriving!
When it comes to exporting these fresh and delicious fruits, there are precise temperatures, humidity levels, among other environmental requirements, that need to be carefully considered. So, you might be wondering, how exactly is the citrus kept intact throughout its journey? This relies on the ability of maintaining and preserving its shelf life. Thanks to a unique system installed within our ZIMonitor and our very own 24/7 specialized team, we can closely monitor the cargo and receive real-time temperature deviations, which can be adjusted if need be.
Once the citrus is harvested, it is transported to the cold store where it undergoes a precooling process. This is also when South Africa’s Perishable Product Export Control Board (PPECB) enters the picture. This motivated team of product inspectors located at cold stores and loading depots across the country, guarantee that all products are given the utmost care, while ensuring that each and every citrus fruit leaving South Africa keeps its fruit protocol and food safety standards according to the specific needs of the customer, which is why it’s no surprise that our ZIMonitor continues to encounter zero cold treatment failures.
Paving the Way for Increased Exports
Over the years, The South African local citrus industry has enjoyed phenomenal growth in exports to China. To ensure the safety of products entering the country, China has introduced a series of standards for temperature-controlled commodities moving along the cold chain. Recently, the country also stepped up its efforts in disinfestation requirements to prevent COVID-19 barriers. When exporting citrus and other sensitive fruits to different cold treatment destination, they must maintain a constant temperature for a prescribed period of days to reach protocol.
So, what happens if the fruit doesn’t meet protocol? In this case, the fruit is redirected to a commercial market.
The personal touch and flexible attitude towards customers’ needs ultimately led to a creative solution. South Africa’s reefer team offered customers pre-staging facilities, to alleviate pressure at the cold stores: “In times of restrictions and limitations, we had to do something, and it worked. The prestaging idea proved to be quite a big hit, and we’ve already got it in place for this upcoming season.”
As we like to say: When life gives you lemons, you can make more than lemonade!
Gary Eagar, South Africa Branch Manager, anticipates growth of about 10 – 12% for the citrus market all around. Looking at the next five years, this commodity sector has the potential to rise at least 8% every year and to expand its reach to even more destinations around the world.
Now, plenty more citrus fans worldwide can look out for South Africa’s abundant selection of this premium quality superfruit!