South African Grapefruit Production Up

Josh McGill Crop Forecast, Grapefruit, International

South African grapefruit production is forecast at 420,000 metric tons (MT) for 2022–23 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS). That’s up slightly from prior-year grapefruit production of 416,000 MT.

South African grapefruit
Star Ruby is the leading grapefruit variety grown in South Africa.

South Africa’s planted grapefruit area has grown by 18% over the past seven years, mainly driven by a surge in global demand, especially in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. However, grapefruit area is expected to flatten in the coming years due to softening global demand.

In addition, accelerating farming input costs and higher shipping rates are diminishing the profitability of grapefruit producers, which limits continuing investments in the industry. As a result, USDA FAS forecasts marginal growth in grapefruit area in 2022–23 to 8,477 hectares, up from 8,377 hectares in 2021–22.

Limpopo province is the leading growing region for grapefruit in South Africa, accounting for 59% of total area planted, followed by Mpumalanga (21%), KwaZulu-Natal (10%) and Northern Cape (6%) provinces.

Star Ruby, due to its high global demand, is the predominant cultivar planted, accounting for 88% of total area. Other grapefruit cultivars planted in South Africa include Marsh, Fe 1(Jackson), Pomelit, Rose and Redheart.

Local processing of South African grapefruit offers an alternative to exports. Grapefruit processing is expected to increase to 198,000 MT in 2022–23, up 10% year-over-year, due to higher processing prices compared to other citrus types.

South Africa’s grapefruit export forecast for 2022–23 is 220,000 MT, down 8% from the 238,000 MT exported in 2021–22.

Accelerating input costs and higher shipping rates last season meant that certain grades of grapefruit could not be exported profitably. In addition, flooding across the KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces near harvest time created shipping challenges.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also affected normal trading patterns of South Africa’s grapefruit, with shipments to Russia ceasing soon after the start of the conflict. However, grapefruit exports to Russia resumed later in the year.

China was the leading market for South African grapefruit exports in 2021–22, accounting for 27% of foreign sales, followed by the Netherlands, Japan and Russia. Together, these four countries represented more than 70% of South Africa’s total exports of grapefruit in 2021–22.

While total export volumes to the United States are still low, they have been growing exponentially over the past 10 years, from 275 MT in 2010–11 to 6,184 MT in 2021–22.

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

Source: USDA FAS

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