South African citrus exports, both globally and to the US, are expected to reach record levels in 2020, according to a report from the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA/FAS). The expected record is based on the pace of exports up to August 2020, increased production, a spike in demand for health reasons and limited logistics disruptions from COVID-19.
The United States is considered a premium market for South African citrus. Exports to the United States are expected to reach record levels of above 70,000 metric tonnes in 2020, up 10% from the previous record of 63,544 MT in 2018. South African citrus enters the United States duty-free under the African Growth Opportunity Act.
South Africa exports its citrus from the end of March to August. This period coincided with the national lockdown due to COVID-19 in 2020. However, all agricultural production, including citrus, was considered an essential service during the national lockdown and remained operational. While there were initial challenges at some of the ports in Cape Town and Durban, such as congestion, shortage of containers and closures of ports for limited periods due to COVID-19 cases, the citrus industry was able to work around these challenges. The citrus industry established a COVID-19 Response Committee, and the joint efforts from government, port authorities and shipping companies were critical in ensuring that South Africa could achieve peak export volumes.
South African citrus imports account for 4% of total US citrus imports. South Africa is the fifth largest supplier of citrus to the United States. South Africa is only permitted to export citrus to the United States from official citrus black spot-free areas. CitrusIndustry