“The advent of a summer citrus program offering the full panoply of easy-peelers, navel oranges and grapefruit has been welcomed by U.S. retailers,” he said.
That could be particularly true this season, Solomon said, given that California was affected by a midseason freeze that will, he said, make retailers more inclined to switch earlier from domestic to Southern Hemisphere production.
“It should create good, strong early demand for easy peelers as well as for navels,” he said.
Chile, like South Africa, is expected to have a bigger U.S.-bound citrus crop this year, Solomon said. However, he’s not worried about demand for South Africa product suffering as a result.
“The U.S. is a very big market and should be able to absorb this volume,” he said.
Demand this season for fruit shipped by Fisher Capespan, Solomon said, will depend on the company’s ability to deliver high-quality fruit at a good value.
The key, he said, is to convince consumers to make South African citrus “a regular part of their weekly grocery bag,” and he said Fisher Capespan is up to the challenge.
“We have a track record of doing this, and we expect to continue,” he said.
Demand for South African citrus should continue on the trajectory established over the past several years, said Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrusdal, South Africa-based Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum.
“Consumer demand continues to grow year over year,” he said. “Each season we see that the market is still in a growth mode — one where consumers will buy what is available in the markets.”
U.S. importers and retailers have specifically asked for more South African clementines this season, van der Merwe said. And midknights are expected to build on a very strong 2011.
“The quality and demand for midknights last year was remarkable,” he said.