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This sector is no lemon: SA citrus exports hit record v...

Business Maverick

Business Maverick

This sector is no lemon: SA citrus exports hit record volumes in 2020

(Photo: Unsplash/William Moreland)

Last year was an unmitigated economic disaster for South Africa, but some sectors still shone brightly. It was revealed this week that citrus exports hit record volumes in 2020, with 146 million cartons of fruit exported. 

Favourable weather conditions were clearly a factor, and the agricultural sector, while it faced challenges stemming from the pandemic, was never locked down. This enabled citrus farmers to unlock the potential from their fields at a time when there was rising global demand for vitamin-laced products, including vitamin C. 

“If we can continue to gain and expand access in key markets such as the European Union, the United States, China and India, there is no reason South Africa will not meet long-term industry projections to export 200 million cartons of citrus fruit within the next five years,” the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) said. 

South Africa remains the second-largest exporter of fresh citrus in the world after Spain and this is clearly a rare piece of good news on the current economic front. Growing exports – which bring hard currency into the economy, which in turn helps to support the rand – is a key goal of the government. 

The citrus sector is also labour intensive and offers opportunities for emerging farmers. An export levy that is administered by the CGA is being devoted to research, development and fostering emerging black farmers. Constraints to the industry’s growth would include water scarcity as citrus is a very thirsty crop, a point underlined by the amount of juice it produces. 

And agriculture is one of South Africa’s key competitive advantages on the global stage. As debates swirl around emotive issues such as expropriation without compensation and land reform to address the inequities of the past, it remains critical to get land redistribution right without rocking the boat. South Africa needs to export more stuff, and poor rural dwellers need all the opportunities that a conducive climate and the soil they till can offer. Meanwhile, the potential for the export of new agricultural products such as cannabis remains stunted and stifled by a government with a deep streak of social conservatism, as its embrace of prohibition has demonstrated. DM/BM


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  • Hoedspruit and Ohrigstad citrus farms are heading for record crops but when will the railway system be upgraded to assist in transporting these crops to the coast for delivery to overseas customers?
    Road transportation, i.e. trucks are already causing chaos (and damage) on our roads what with mines using trucks instead of rail to transport masses of mined product to the coast.

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