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AGOA bill good news for South Africa's citrus growers

AGOA bill good news for South Africa's citrus growers
Published date:
Wednesday, 17 April 2024
Fred Meintjies

There is good news for South African citrus exports to the US. Moves in US Congress to review South Africa’s participation in AGOA, the US Growth and Opportunities Act, have been dropped.

South African citrus growers who ship their fruit to the US are breathing a sigh of relief after reports that senators have introduced a bill to extend AGOA, which is meant to boost trade between Africa and the US until 2041.

Reports from the US have indicated that 30 African countries will keep duty-free exports to the US market for this period, including the Western Cape citrus growers, the only area in South Africa allowed to ship citrus to the US.

The news will boost confidence in the South African citrus industry ahead of the 2024 campaign, which is due to start soon.

The Summer Citrus campaign has been a feature of South African shipments to the US for more than two decades and has grown to annual volumes of more than 100,000 tonnes.

Most notably, it indicates that the US has scrapped plans for South Africa to undergo an out-cycle review. South Africa is one of the US’ biggest beneficiaries, exporting cars, fruit and wine, among other products.

Media sources said relations between South Africa and the US soured because of the former’s political stance on matters in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine. They said there was a need for the relationship to improve.

Observers noted that the US ”needs all the friends it can get in the current international climate” and this could be an incentive to mend the relationship with South Africa.

“The industry has achieved growth in exports to the US over the past few years under AGOA,” said Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA).

“If South Africa would have been removed from AGOA, thousands of rural jobs would be impacted, as well as over a billion rand in export revenue could be lost.”

Currently only citrus from the Western and Northern Cape is shipped to the US, van der Merwe confirmed.

“To give you an idea of how many jobs are connected to US citrus exports, we know that more than 35,000 local jobs from farm level throughout the supply chain would have been affected,” he said.

”There is also the matter of 20,000 jobs in the US which are sustained by US-SA citrus exports. Without AGOA, these jobs will surely be under threat,”

The first containers of the 2024 season bound for the US market are due to leave Cape Town by the end of April.

The first conventional reefer shipments will start in the second half of May and the shipping programme is due to continue until late September. 

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