8 Things You Didn’t Know About Citrus Farming In South Africa

By Lillian Mutiso AFKI Original Published: April 21, 2016, 7:13 am
Image: forwardflorida.com

South Africa is the world’s third largest producer of citrus fruits, after Turkey and Spain.  In Africa, The Southern African nation’s biggest competitor is Egypt. The country reaps big from exports of the fruits to European and Asian markets.

Valencias, Grapefruits, Navels and Mandarins are the main types of citrus fruits exported by South Africa.

Below are some things to know about citrus farming in South Africa.

Sources; ABC, SouthAfrica.info, Bloomberg, Fruitnet.com, Citrus Growers Association, farmer’s weekly, Business Day Live

Image: producebusinessuk.com

Image: producebusinessuk.com

Africa leading exporter

South Africa is Africa’s leading exporter of Citrus fruits, alongside Egypt. The Eastern Cape is the nation’s leading producer of lemons. It accounts for half of the total production. Limpopo province has the largest area under citrus cultivation. This is 134,697 acres, which is 42 percent of the region’s 64,510 hectares.

citrus export

Breakdown of South Africa’s Citrus export statistics (Image: sabc.co.za)

Europe is the leading market, but Asia is catching on

European countries are the leading markets for citrus fruits from South Africa. In 2014, the nation started exporting more fruits to the Asian market after exports to Europe were affected by the black spot fungal disease. It sent 4.5 million cartons of the fruit to China. On October 15, 2014, the exports to European were stopped as new import duties the black fungal disease that affected the quality of citrus for export. Exports resumed in 2015.

Image: mindenpictures.com

Image: mindenpictures.com

It’s partly done under irrigation

Citrus is done under irrigation and rain-fed agriculture in the country.  It is a major activity in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Image: algestates.com

Image: algestates.com

Dwindling fortunes

In 2016, adverse weather conditions, mainly extreme heat and drought are set to drastically reduce the nation’s citrus fruit export volume. This is a result of the lowest rainfall received in the nation since 1904. The drought already led to the production of small fruit which is not readily marketable unlike the big fruits. In 2015, Eastern Cape experienced good rainfall amounts and helped supplement other areas hit by the adverse weather patterns.

Image: forwardflorida.com

Image: forwardflorida.com

Contribution to economy

Citrus farming is a major agricultural sector in the Rainbow nation. It earned about $611 million (R 9.4 million) in 2014. It contributes about R3 billion to the economy annually. In 2015, South Africa exported 1.77 million metric tons of the fruits.

Image: fruitnet.com

Image: fruitnet.com

Employs 60,000 people permanently, 100,000 others during harvest

At least 60,000 people are permanently employed by the sector. It is a major source of income in the citrus-rich belt of Mpumalanga, Western and Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal.During the peak harvesting season, from May to the end of October, at least 100,000 more are employed.

Thinkstock

Thinkstock

2015 was a record year for citrus farmers

In 2015, the nation enjoyed its best ever citrus fruit harvest. It exported 118 million cartons by the end of November. This was the best returns, both financially and in volume of export in the nation’s history. It also exported a record 77 million cartons of oranges, which surpassed the previous mark of 75 million cartons.

Ivy Nokwanele Mzamo

Ivy Nokwanele Mzamo (Image: iol.co.za)

Produced Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015

In May 2015, Ivy Nokwanele Mzamo won the overall Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for 2014-15. She is a citrus fruit farmer in the Eastern Cape. She is also the manager of Luthando Citrus Farm.

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