Steady Production and Expansions of Trade Protocols Marks China’s Citrus Sector in 2023

Published Jul 17, 2023
Due to continued COVID concerns, adverse weather, and phytosanitary challenges, China's citrus sector will likely stay balanced in 2022/23. Despite the economic recession, demand for citrus fruits remains high. The Chinese government is approving more citrus suppliers, including those from Zimbabwe and Australia. Tangerine and mandarin imports to China are estimated to reach 60,000 mt in 2022/23, with South Africa accounting for more than half of that total. Grapefruit output in China is predicted to be 5.15 mmt in 2022/23, with imports reaching 120,000 mt, up 8% YoY.

After years of constant expansion, China's citrus production will likely stay balanced in marketing year (MY) 2022/23 as the market battles with ongoing COVID concerns, unfavorable weather, and phytosanitary issues. Despite the summer drought affecting important producing areas, orange production will likely improve somewhat. Due to poor weather and citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing (HLB), tangerine and mandarin production is expected to decrease in MY 2022/23. Grapefruit production is also likely to be reduced by 50,000 mt, totaling 5.15 million mt. Despite the economic downturn, citrus demand remains high. At the same time, the Chinese government is expanding the approval of citrus suppliers, like Zimbabwe and Australia.

Source: TradeMap and Tridge

*2023 data are based on authors' research from various sources

Tangerine and mandarin production is expected to reach 26.5 million metric tons in 2022/23, a subtle decline of 1.85% YoY. The forecast considers lower output quantities due to a result of adverse weather and reduced planting areas because of the HLB outbreak in Guangxi province.

Tangerine and mandarin imports to China are expected to reach 60,000 mt in 2022/23, up marginally from 2021-22. The biggest suppliers are Australia, Peru, Chile, and South Africa, which account for more than half of China's mandarine imports.

China's grapefruit/pomelo output is expected to be 5.15 million metric tons (mmt) in 2022/23, a slight decrease from the previous year. Grapefruit (including pomelo) imports are expected to reach 120,000 mt in 2022/23, around an 8% YoY increase compared to last year, due to continued demand for fresh, imported types from Thailand. Traders anticipate that China will increase its imports from South Africa. South Africa remains the major grapefruit supplier to the Chinese market, accounting for more than 60% of total imports. Thailand, Israel, and Egypt are among the other providers.

In 2022/23, China's orange production is predicted to reach 7.6 mmt, with higher output in new planting locations. COVID-related regulations have reduced imports significantly, with an expected 230,000 mt in 2022/23.

Recently, China's government has expanded and fortified the citrus fruit trade. Following a meeting between Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and China's General Administration of Customs (GACC), Chinese officials have resumed regular export conditions for Australian fruit. The GACC provided revised lists of orchards, packhouses, and treatment facilities permitted for export to China, including 496 additional citrus orchard locations. This action indicates strengthening economic links between the two countries, which may result in more citrus supplies bound for China. On June 1, 2023, the GACC also published a list of registered Zimbabwean orchards and packing houses that can export citrus to China. In Zimbabwe, 11 citrus orchards and six citrus packing businesses have been identified as suitable citrus suppliers to China. The GACC also announced conditions for Zimbabwean citrus shipments entering China through third countries, requiring pre-departure inspection and a 2% sample rate for each batch. Cold treatment is mandatory to avoid pest transmission. Zimbabwe is considering shipping its initial batches to China via the Port of Durban in South Africa and trial shipments to markets in the Middle East and the Far East via the Port of Beira in Mozambique. Zimbabwe has 4,000 ha of land dedicated to citrus farming, with potential growth in the future due to access to the Chinese market.

Based on current estimations, Tridge forecasts an increase in China’s citrus fruit imports, depending on the type and variety. Demand is projected to stay vital for high-quality citrus fruits and continue to climb, especially given consumer demand for goods abundant in vitamin C and associated immune system health advantages. Increased demand for citrus fruit will also influence China's farmers' orchard expansion decisions. More on China’s citrus Market Penetration Strategy can be found here

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