Tuesday 29th May 2012, 04:46 Central Time
First RSA citrus of season due in US
The new South African citrus season in the US will officially start this week with the arrival of the first fruit in Philadelphia
The new South African citrus season in the US is about to start with the arrival of the first Clementines in Philadelphia this week, coinciding with the departure of the first conventional reefer of the season which started loading in Cape Town on Sunday (27 May).
The first 60 pallets of Clementines were shipped on the container vessel Alexander, via Newark, and are expected to be followed by three more shipments before the first conventional vessel, Iberian Reefer, arrives at the end of June with the largest shipment so far this season.
The container shipments play an important part at the start of the South African season, ensuring that some volumes of fruit enter the market before the first conventional vessels arrive. This year, the South African citrus harvest has, in general terms, been later than usual, and containers filled the gap before the first conventional vessel could be loaded.
Exporters have confirmed that they intend to ship significantly higher volumes of Clementines this season, with Western Cape Citrus Producer’s Forum Executive Suhanra Conradie confirming that this year’s shipments may well exceed last year’s total volumes of 39,500 pallets.
"We do expect to reach volumes of previous seasons and potentially exceed that," she explained, adding that US retailers were liking the eating quality of the fruit and would welcome additional volumes.
In 2010 South Africa shipped more than 41,500 pallets; a figure exporters say may well be exceeded this campaign.
While it is too early to speculate about total shipments, exporters note that they are increasing their volumes on the back of a good crop and what they see as opportunities to expand their business in the US. Boet Mouton of Mouton Citrus says the early fruit has lived up to expectations and this will enable shippers to take advantage of new opportunities.
"We are confident about a good season and will also increase our Fairtrade programmes this year," adds Gerrit van der Merwe (jnr) of ALG Estates.
The second conventional vessel, which is also due in the port of Philadelphia before the end of June, will start loading later this week, indicating that after a slow start South Africa's volumes will be on track to fully supply waiting customers by the start of July.
While the Clementine harvest is at its peak and is expected to finish in about ten days, navel packing will increase before late mandarins and Valencia’s follow later. The first pack of Star Ruby grapefruit shipments to the US market is expected to start in about ten days.
The first Clementines arriving this week are expected to enter a strong market. “The market is fairly empty at the moment,” commented one exporter.