Tight Lemon and Orange Supply in South Africa Will Reflect on Trade and Drive Prices up

Published Sep 19, 2023
The citrus export season in South Africa is set to end earlier than usual, with some areas witnessing a decline in supplies. The Eastern Cape has seen a volume shortfall, and the Citrus Growers Association of South Africa and the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum have stated that South African citrus will no longer be approved for shipment to the European Union from September 23. Trade is projected to be impacted by the early conclusion of the citrus export season and probable shortages during the changeover from Southern to Northern Hemisphere oranges. Alternative items like stone and soft fruits are expected to compete for store space and consumer attention.

The tight supply of lemons and oranges in South Africa (SA) is expected to significantly impact trade and drive up prices. The export season for citrus in SA will end earlier than usual, with some areas experiencing a four- to five-week reduction in supply. This is due to a clearer understanding of the size of the export crop over the past few months.

The estimate for Valencia oranges export has been reduced by 1 million cartons to 48.4 million 15 kilograms (kg) carton boxes, an 10.37% YoY decrease compared to 54 million boxes from previous year. The crop distribution on the trees differed from what was initially anticipated, resulting in a lighter overall harvest. Lower yields per hectare and larger fruit sizes have been observed across much of the country, particularly in the Eastern Cape, which experienced a significant volume shortage.

*For MY 2023 data is presented until the end of Q2-23

Source: TradeMap and Tridge

SA has decided to close its 2023 citrus season to Europe, placing supply for Q4-23 in the hands of European producers. The Citrus Growers Association of South Africa (CGA) and the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) confirmed that no South African citrus would be accepted for exports to the European Union (EU) from W3 of Sep-23. The early end of the citrus export season in SA, coupled with the potential shortage of lemons and oranges during the transition from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere citrus, is expected to impact trade. Prices in Europe have remained stable, largely due to lower citrus exports from South America caused by high inflation and shipping costs.

It is worth noting that next year's citrus season in SA may look different due to the favorable rainfall experienced this season. However, the current tight supply situation emphasizes the need to manage citrus supply and demand carefully. Increased competition is expected, as alternative products like stone and soft fruits will also be available. All these products will compete for the same shelf space and consumer attention. Tridge expects that the tight lemon and orange supply in SA will significantly impact trade and prices. The early end of the export season, coupled with potential shortages during the transition period, will create challenges for the citrus industry. 

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