South Africa Lemons/Limes to Hit Historic High

Josh McGillInternational, lemons, Limes

Production of fresh lemons and limes in South Africa is forecast to grow by 2% in 2022–23, bringing it to a historic high of 660,000 metric tons (MT). This forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS) is based on conducive weather conditions and a growing number of young trees approaching full production. In 2021–22, South Africa produced an estimated 650,000 MT of lemons/limes.

South Africa
Photo by Karly Jones on Unsplash

The area planted with lemons/limes in South Africa more than doubled over the past seven years, driven by improved global demand and rising global prices. However, the positive trend in area planted has flattened in recent years due to the bearish
movement of export prices received by producers. This situation is expected to continue in 2022–23, with only marginal growth in area planted, up to 18,300 hectares from 18,200 hectares the prior year.

More than 40% of the total area planted with lemons consists of orchards that are five years or younger, indicating that growing volumes of lemons will be reaching the market in the next five years.

The Eastern Cape province is the leading growing region for lemons/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 planted in South Africa is Eureka, representing 75% of total area. Eureka is followed by the Lisbon (8%) and 2PH Seedless (6%) cultivars.

Lemons/limes delivered for processing are expected to drop to around 60,000 MT in both 2022–23 and 2021–22, due to an upsurge in exports to record levels. In 2020–21, an estimated 103,000 MT of lemons were delivered for processing.

Processed lemons and limes are used as flavoring and food ingredients. In the beverage industry, lemons/limes are used to make lemonade, smoothies and liquors. Lemon juice is used as a degreaser and disinfectant in the cleaning industry.

South Africa’s exports of lemons/limes are forecast to rise by 2% to a record 570,000 MT in 2022–23. The European Union and United Kingdom remain the main export markets, accounting for almost 50% of total exports. Lemon/lime exports to Russia, representing 7% of total exports, stayed flat in 2021–22, indicating limited impact from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Lemon exports to China increased by more than 1,000% to almost 9,000 MT in 2021–22, after the easing of cold treatment requirements in August 2021.

Imports of lemons/limes in 2022–23 are expected to remain flat at around 3,000 MT, as the available domestic production sufficiently meets local demand. Imports are minimal, mainly
from Eswatini.

See the full USDA/FAS annual report on South African citrus here.

Source: USDA FAS

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