Citrus prices to be squeezed

Citrus farmers in the Sundays River Valley are bracing themselves for a drop in the price for their produce, with the price of export citrus falling by up to 33%.

Citrus farmers in the Sundays River Valley are bracing themselves for a drop in the price for their produce, with the price of export citrus falling by up to 33%.

The uncertain global economic market had a huge negative impact on citrus exports. Farmers will be getting less for their crops than last season, even though farmers in the Sunday Rivers Valley produced 2 million cartons more than the previous year, for a total of 20 million export cartons.

Hannes de Waal, marketing director of the Sundays River Citrus Co-operative at Kirkwood, said the sharp price drop can also be ascribed to over-production in other parts of the world.

“Between 7% and 8% more Navel oranges and about 25% more lemons and Valencia oranges were harvested this year than the previous season in the Sundays River Valley alone. Internationally, Spain had an enormous citrus crop. A much bigger crop than usual in Argentina and several other citrus exporting countries all contributed to an international over-supply.

“With the current economic uncertainties, many people are cutting back on fruit purchases, with the result that prices are not good at the moment. Navel prices are about 33% down on last year, and the price of Valencias also dropped by about 30%. But the lemon market is not too bad, although we lost about 25 to 30 picking days due to rain.”

De Waal added that the development of a much bigger market in Africa, especially for oranges, will be of cardinal importance in the future, although the local market is quite strong. Citrus grower Allan Steven of Allandale farms said at times the quality of the citrus hadn’t been too good, especially when picking was delayed by four to five weeks because of the rain.

“But its too expensive to insure your crops. Prices also aren’t any better than 10 to 15 years ago. If you don’t accept the prices offered, buyers just go elsewhere. We’re just filling financial holes all the time.” Cobus Swart, who farms at Oranjelus near Kirkwood, said harvesting ended much later than anticipated because of the rain, and he’d lost a large chunk of his crop.

“But we didn’t have to pump water for irrigation during the rain and managed to save quite a bit on electricity and that almost balanced out our losses,” he said. – Lourens Schoeman

Caption:
International over-production is one of the reasons some citrus prices have dropped by up to 33%.
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