South African citrus shippers dealing directly with retailers CITRUSDAL, South Africa — In addition to working with importers in the U.S., citrus shippers in South Africa are setting up deals directly with retailers.

South Africa’s Western Cape and Northern Cape regions comprise around 300 growers eligible to export summer citrus to the U.S., who have worked with importers such as Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla.; DNE World Fruit LLC, Fort Pierce, Fla.; and Fisher Capespan, St. Laurent, Quebec, since their fruit was cleared for export to the U.S. in the 1990s.    

Exports to the U.S. account for a small slice (3%) of the country’s total citrus exports but are highly profitable, growers say.

Since the U.S. is a premium market for South African citrus and the destination for exporters’ highest-quality fruit, maintaining the market price is crucial.

If importers misjudge demand and end up with more fruit than they have commitments for, South Africans’ best fruit sells below what they need to make meeting the U.S.’s  quality and phytosanitary requirements worth meeting.

To accurately gauge the market’s demand for summer citrus requires knowing what consumers are buying, and retailers are best situated to answer that question.  

“If supermarkets want more, you know you’re doing well,” said Gerrit van der Merwe, owner of grower-shipper ALG Estates, which conducts direct deals with some U.S. retailers.

“Our philosophy is to pack directly for the supermarket,” said van der Merwe, who is chairman of the  Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum.

Another high-volume shipper giving direct retail programs increased attention is Mouton Citrus (Pty) Ltd.

Mouton Citrus has doubled its program in the past year, said Johan Mouton, managing director.

Mouton is in its third year of packing fruit in South Africa into boxes ready to go straight to retail shelves, he said.