Production of lemons and limes in South Africa will grow by 7% to a historic high of 670,000 metric tons (MT) in 2021–22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA/FAS) recently estimated. In 2020–21, South Africa produced 626,791 MT of the fruit.
The area planted with lemons and limes grew more than threefold over the past 10 years, driven by improved global demand and rising global prices. That positive trend has flattened in recent years due to the bearish movement of export prices received by producers. USDA/FAS expects only a marginal growth in the planted area in 2021–22, to 18,500 hectares, up from 18,057 hectares in 2020–21.
The Eastern Cape province is the leading growing region for lemons and limes in South Africa, accounting for 42% of total area planted, followed by the Limpopo (31%) and Western Cape (14%) provinces. By far, the most popular lemon cultivar in South Africa is Eureka, representing 75% of total area planted.
Domestic consumption of lemons and limes is estimated to increase marginally to 28,000 MT in 2021–22, from 27,000 MT in 2020–21. Tonnage delivered for processing is expected to grow to 114,000 MT in 2021–22, from 103,000 MT in 2020–21.
South Africa’s exports of lemons and limes are estimated to rise by 6% to a record level of 530,000 MT in 2021–22, from 498,737 MT in 2020–21. The European Union and United Kingdom remain the main export markets for South Africa, accounting for more than 40% of total exports. The Russia-Ukraine conflict will influence normal trading patterns, however.
USDA/FAS estimated that 2021–22 imports of lemons and limes will remain flat at around 2,000 MT. Imports are minimal and come mainly from Eswatini.
See the full USDA/FAS report on South African citrus.