Problems at South Africa’s ports are causing a citrus glut, sending prices lower

The logistics and packaging of oranges in a warehouse. Getty Images

The logistics and packaging of oranges in a warehouse. Getty Images
  • Thanks to challenges at the ports, and high volumes of fruit, South Africa has a surplus of citrus.
  • The oversupply has caused prices for oranges and lemons to decrease.
  • Orange prices dropped to under R2 per kilogram.
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South Africa is currently experiencing an oversupply of citrus resulting from a high volume of fruit harvested and logistical problems at the country’s ports, presenting challenges for exporters.

Prices for oranges and lemons have been affected, with both citrus varietals below R4,00 per kilogram.

“The orange price… is severely under pressure, mostly due to an oversupply on the local markets at the moment,” Johnny van der Merwe, managing director of agricultural information group Agrimark Trends (AMT), said in his weekly video tracking trends in the fresh produce market.

“This oversupply is caused not only by high production levels at the moment but also due to export and the logistical constraints mostly on our local harbours,” he said.

The latest orange price decreased to R1.72 per kilogram, while the class 1 orange price dropped to R1.17 per kilogram. Lemon prices fell to R3.37 per kilogram.

Van der Merwe said fewer citrus volumes will enter the market over the next three months, which will likely prop prices up.

“We might see slightly lower volumes entering the market over the next three months; however, we may only see a significant improvement in the price towards the end of the year,” he said

The logistical challenges being experienced by the citrus industry at the ports comes as no surprise, following the Citrus Growers’ Association’s (CGA) earlier warning about more potential constraints.

At the start of the year, the Citrus Growers’ Association warned that there would be challenges for South African exporters in 2022 because of lingering logistics and shipping problems. At the time, it said that it expected operations at the ports to be constrained.

The previous year, described by the CGA as an annus horribilis year for the citrus industry, was also challenging for exporting growers. At one point, farmers were given directives to halt harvesting and packing fruit to help ease congestion at the Durban port.