South African Citrus Exports – A Pause in Growth in 2023?

CGA’s first count predictions are in.

According to the CGA’s first count, South Africa’s citrus export potential to date stands at 142.5 million boxes. This figure does not yet include the late hybrid forecast, which will be published later. The 2023 export season comes after an extremely difficult 2022 for South African growers, which resulted in a reduction of 5.7 million cartons from the original estimate of 164.8 million cartons in total. 

Among the difficulties encountered, the historic drought, soaring farming input and fuel prices, and astronomical increases in shipping costs have made the cost of getting to the various export markets financially unviable for many producers. In addition, changes in regulatory access conditions in Europe, the continued deterioration of public infrastructure and erratic electricity supply have added to the sector’s difficulties. With many of these problems continuing into 2023, and some even worsening, such as increasing load-shedding and steadily rising input costs, crop forecasts for a number of varieties show only moderate growth or a decline from 2022.

Thus, only the export potential for lemons is increasing (+7% /2022) from 34.7 million cartons in 2022 to 37.3 million in 2023. This is a trend that reflects the dynamic growth of orchards that has exploded since 2015 (+ 8,000 ha), even if this has slowed down in 2021. The volumes of oranges offered on the international markets should remain stable in Valencia and Valencia like (+ 1%/2022), with shipments of around 54.5 million cartons forecast for 2023. Conversely, Navel exports are expected to decline by -9% compared to the 2022 season, with 2.5 million fewer cartons, or 25.3 million cartons estimated for 2023. Orange export forecasts are perfectly in line with the dynamics of orchard development, with a growth of around 2% per year since 2015 for Valencia and Valencia like (31,000 ha in 2021), while Navel surfaces (16,000 ha) have not changed since 2015. This trend illustrates the choice of producers to favour late orange varieties that are more easily found on the international market. Grapefruit exports should show a sharp decline (-14%/2022) with 14.4 million cartons expected in 2023, i.e., the smallest export season of the decade, despite the timid replanting movement observed since 2019 (+1200 ha between 2019 and 2021).

Regarding soft citrus, the count is not yet complete and the figures will be communicated at a later date. Nevertheless, it is highly likely that the export potential will be on the rise, given the strong rate of growth in surface areas (+16%/year between 2015 and 2021), mainly concentrated on late hybrids and the rise of young orchards.

Issued by CGA, 17 April 2023

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