Local citrus farmers, who benefitted significantly from this treaty, said if it was not renewed the implications could be devastating for the industry.
The Africa Growth and Opportunity Treaty (AGOA) was signed in 2000 and provided a significant boost for SA citrus exporters, who first gained entry to the US market in 1999.
According to Suhanra Conradie, CEO of the Western Cape Citrus Producers’ Forum (WCCPF) the AGOA Treaty will be reviewed for the first time next year and a possible renewal will be considered by the US government.
Conradie said the AGOA Treaty has been very beneficial to Africa as a whole and especially to South Africa. “The returns from this market have enabled the creation of jobs here and in the US.”
She added that expansion of the citrus export programme between SA and the US over the past 15 years has enabled local farmers to invest in the Harvest of Hope programme for formerly disadvantaged people in SA.
“As a result, better healthcare and education, as well as job advancement opportunities are available and supported by the citrus programme,” she said.
US consul general to Cape Town, Erica Barks-Ruggles, who recently attended a planning session between citrus growers, exporters and importers, indicated that exports of oranges from SA to the US hit a new record in 2013, with nearly $57 million (R608 million) in sales or more than 39 000t in exports. This represented an increase of 40% in value and a 25% increase in volume compared to 2009 and nearly 800% since the program started in 1999.
Barks-Ruggles said South Africa’s citrus exports to the US were one of the biggest success stories of the AGOA Treaty.
“Up to 80 000 temporary positions have been created, supporting as many as 120 000 South African families,” she said.