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Port problems hit SA citrus exports

South African citrus exports have fallen by 8% this year, partly because of problems at the country’s ports

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Port problems hit SA citrus exports

With the South African citrus season now over, the country’s Citrus Growers Association (CGA) has calculated that the number of cartons of fruit exported fell from 136M in 2018 to 126M this year, although last year’s figure was a record.


Export volumes were buoyed by the depreciation of the South African Rand, which fell in value from R11.70 to the US dollar at the start of 2019 to about R15 at present, allowing the sector to generate R20B (US$1.36B) in export revenues over the year.


A string of delays at the country’s container ports has been reported this year, while there was a prolonged strike in July at the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape, 20km outside Port Elizabeth. The statement said that the CGA was in talks with the Minister for Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, over finding solutions to the port problems.


South Africa, which is the world’s second biggest citrus fruit exporter, ships fruit to more than 100 countries, but about 30% is exported to the UK. British customers could increase their imports from South Africa if any additional costs are imposed on imports from the European Union following Brexit.


South African fruit production has also been affected by drought this year, although it affected some crops more than others, with record soft citrus and lemon harvests recorded.


In a statement, the CGA said: “Fortunately, South Africa has such a diverse spread of growing regions that the decline remains within the acceptable targets established by the industry.”


The ongoing drought in the north of the country could affect yields in 2020, so the CGA does not expect 2020 exports to match the 2018 figure. However, it does expect exports to increase over the coming decade.

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