First conventional reefers with South African citrus are due to leave for the US East Coast this weekend

Oranges clustered together closeup Adobe

South African citrus sources have said they are confident of a good season in the US this year, with indications of a good crop and fruit of excellent quality.

While container shipments left South Africa last month, the departure of the first of a series of conventional reefers truly marks the start of the new season.

South Africa has a successful summer citrus programme in the US that has been developed over the past 25 years.

It includes a unique cooperative shipping and logistics programme featuring conventional reefers between now and the end of September.

The fruit is produced in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, the only citrus growing regions that are permitted to ship to the US.

“This is a tough programme to comply with,” explained Johan Mouton, chairman and founder of the largest individual grower/exporter to the US.

“Over time we have learnt valuable lessons lesson in dealing with tough protocols,” he noted. “That is why the growers in the region also perhaps find it easier to adapt to new conditions in other markets in the world.”

South African exporters have had a good start to their season in Europe with strong markets. They believe that once the last of the Californian fruit clears in the US, they will have a positive run to the end of their season in October.

The first South African vessels will discharge in the second half of June. Part of the optimism, aside from an excellent crop, is based on the decline of the rand against the US dollar, which is expected to bring higher returns to the farm.

Mouton said that Mouton Citrus, which is based in the Citrusdal Valley, had developed strong relations with receivers in the US and elsewhere.

“Part of our success here in South Africa’s Cape region is the fact that we respond to challenges and market demands,” he outlined.

”Although our own brand has been well established, we also pack here at source for popular US brands such as Cuties which is so successful in focusing on the needs of mothers with young children.

“We are also doing the same with other brands focusing on innovative marketing which assist us to market our whole crop successfully,” Mouton added.

While Cape growers have taken note of the recent differences between the US and South Africa regarding Russia, they have said it is business as usual and they are confident of a good season.