The South African citrus industry has over the years to a large extent been sustained by exports. More than half of citrus fruits produced in South Africa are sold internationally. Because of this the citrus industry is susceptible to international competition, world economic trends and foreign consumer preferences. 

In 2001 the total area planted with citrus trees was to 44 101 hectares. The number of trees were estimated at 18 769 552. During the 2001 calendar year, 3 713 498 new trees were planted, while this included the planting of new varieties, new plantings decreased substantially compared to the 9 266 722 new trees that were planted in 1997.  

In the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa is one of the top five countries exporting citrus fruit. It is competing with the countries like Argentina, Chile and Australia during the principal season, which is April to October, and with Israel, Spain, Egypt and the US towards the end of the marketing season. 

During the last 5 years some important production and marketing changes took place in the SA citrus industry. 

Production increased on average at 8% per year since 1997. With the exception of 2000 when fruit were damaged by bad weather and flooding, production increased dramatically during the last three years. Local consumption of citrus increased to around 8,2 kg per capita compared to 7 kg during the early 90’s.

While export of citrus increased from 699 502 tons in 1977 to 1 103 691 tons in 2001, the portion of production that was exported decreased slightly from 56% of production to around 54% during the 2001/02 season.  

During the last 5 years the number of fruit export agents in South Africa has grown to more than 160. This has resulted in some of the markets being oversupplied and poor prices realised.  

Europe has traditionally been the most important market for South African citrus exports. While Europe and the UK remain South Africa’s biggest market, new markets were established in the Middle East, Asia, and Far East.

Compiled by Edith Maditsi