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South African citrus set for early US arrival

South African citrus set for early US arrival
Orange grove near Cape Town, South Africa
Published date:
Thursday, 28 May 2015

Excellent weather conditions in South Africa’s Western and Northern Cape regions have contributed to an earlier than normal citrus harvest, with the first U.S.-bound shipments due to arrive over the next two to three weeks. 

 A representative of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum (WCCPF) – a consortium of about 300 growers eligible to export to the U.S. – said the fruit’s overall quality was looking very promising as well.

“Favorable weather conditions and optimum fruit ripeness determined the onset of the harvesting period. Our growers believe that in terms of fruit color and eating quality, it is perhaps the best fruit in years to start the season,” CEO Suhanra Conradie said in a release.

“What has made the program so successful is the commitment to providing the best of South Africa’s citrus to the US market and doing so in a very disciplined manner.

“This makes for a successful and sustainable business through consistent quality and reliable supply.”

The first conventional vessel will arrive at the Port of Philadelphia by June 15 bringing around 3,800 pallets of easy peelers and Navel oranges. Two other conventional vessels are scheduled to arrive by June 25 and July 6.

“The detailed shipping plan has conventional vessels arriving through October usually every 10-12 days, based on market demand. Container vessels with smaller volumes will arrive between to assure a steady supply of our citrus,” Conradie said.

She added the Port of Houston’s pilot project to receive shipments would continue, providing key access to expanded Midwest and Far West regions of the U.S.

Conradie said it was possible that volumes would continue to increase year-on-year, having risen by 12% last season to reach 45,000 metric tons (MT).

WCCPF said it was watching closely the ongoing discussions underway in the U.S. Congress as debate on the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) continues. The AGOA is the primary trade agreement between the U.S. and Africa and is up for renewal later this year, having first been implemented in 2000.

“South Africa, including the citrus program, has benefitted from AGOA,” Conradie said.

“We are hopeful it will be renewed, as it forms an imperative part of the success of this program, which creates additional jobs both in South Africa and the US.”

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