The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between South Africa and China in December 2020, offers a major opportunity for South African fruit exports to China.
This was according to Justin Chadwick, chairperson of Fruit South Africa (Fruit SA), an umbrella body for the fruit industry.
The MOU was signed between the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs and Native Produce, and Fruit SA.
The Chinese chamber represented over 6 800 companies that comprised some of the largest agricultural companies in that country, as well a large number of SMEs, representing 44 commodities, Chadwick said.
He added that the agreement would contribute to promoting greater co-operation and statistical information exchange between the countries’ fresh fruit industries, including technology, information on statistics of fruit exports and imports, and changes in regulatory and customs procedures.
“We will also discuss long-outstanding issues such as market access. Many fruit industries in South Africa, such as avocados, stone fruit, blueberries, and apples are earnestly hoping for access to China. Citrus fruit that has potential [in this regard] are grapefruit and lemons.
“The [recent] concluding of the pear and lemon review protocol will create a way forward for other fruit commodities,” he added.
Chadwick explained that the pear and lemon protocol was adjusted in February and completed, but signing was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, from travelling to China.
Currently, due to a “cold protocol” that was unfavourable to lemons, virtually no South African lemons were exported to China, and “improving access for lemons to China will make a huge difference”, he said.
According to a statement release by Fruit SA in 2019, South Africa exported over 2,8 million tons of fresh fruit to overseas markets. However, only a small percentage of these exports went to China.