Challenges and opportunities for citrus

A challenging year lies ahead for the citrus industry with stronger competition from other countries and increasingly strict phytosanitary requirements from Europe.

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This was according to Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA).  “The EU has been threatening SA with market closure for a while now. If this happens it will have a huge impact as we export 50% of our citrus to the EU,” said Chadwick. Adhering to the EU’s strict phytosanitary requirements was not only becoming more expensive – it was virtually impossible, he said.

The CGA will this year negotiate with the EU on some of these requirements. More attention will also be given to opening up new markets, with specific focus on Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia. “Indonesia, India, Thailand and China have shown a lot of interest, as have Ukraine, Slovenia and Kazakhstan,” said Chawick.

Dave Gerber, chief agronomist at the Sundays River Citrus Company (SRCC), said that increasing competition from Egypt, especially when it came to navels, was another big threat to the local citrus industry. “They have a large carry-over stock from last year and this should put pressure on prices this year.”

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He said the SRCC was expecting a large harvest, but smaller fruit sizes. “October 2012 was the coolest ever recorded in the Sundays River Valley and this will have a knock-on effect on the fruit size. But there was also very good rain, so the harvest should be good.”

Gerber said that wind during the fruit formation period will also result in scruffy looking fruit. “On a positive note,” he said, “the cool weather resulted in a very low incidence of thrips.”