Importers of South African oranges and clementines look forward to higher volumes and outstanding quality in 2012.
As of late April, South African citrus crops were on track for excellent quality, said Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrusdal, South Africa-based Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum.
“The weather has been quite good,” van der Merwe said. “It was hot throughout the summer months and has turned toward our winter at just the right time. The transition of temperatures is crucial for the flavor and color of the fruit.”
Size will likely be slightly smaller than in 2011, which is typical in the alternating cycle of the citrus industry, van der Merwe said.
Container shipments of clementines should begin arriving in May, with vessels following in about the third week of June, he said. Navels are expected to follow in late June and midknights in September.
Montreal-based Fisher Capespan expects outstanding quality from this summer’s crop of South African citrus, said Marc Solomon, senior vice president for South African procurement.
“It will set the standard for the market,” Solomon said. “The fruit in the orchards has the traditional fine appearance, and eating quality is expected to be excellent.”
Volumes will likely be larger than in 2011, particularly on navels, Solomon said.
Fisher Capespan expects its first shipments of South African clementines in mid-June, about right on time, Solomon said. It should be a banner year for the smaller fruit in North America, he said.
“Fisher Capespan will have a bigger volume of clementines than last season, and we expect the industry to also be up in volume.”
Fisher Capespan expects to ship clementines into August, Solomon said. They will be followed by late-season clemengold mandarins.
Navels, meanwhile, should begin shipping in late June and be available into September, Solomon said. Midknights will follow and should be available through the fall.
South African navels could be smaller than usual this season, said Kim Flores, spokeswoman for Seald Sweet International Inc., Vero Beach, Fla.
That should open the door for more bagged promotions this summer, Flores said.
“Not that there won’t be large fruit, but it should be ideal for bagged product.”
The South African citrus deal typically alternates between years in which big-sized fruit is plentiful and years in which fruit is on the smaller side, Flores said.
Despite the projected smaller sizing, volumes should be up industrywide this year, Flores said.
One thing importers of South African fruit can always count on, Flores said, is that shippers won’t rush shipments just to extend their marketing opportunities.
“They’ll wait for the quality to be ideal,” she said. “South African growers have always done a really good job of protecting the integrity of their fruit. They don’t want to send anything to market prematurely.”
Seald Sweet will likely ship South African citrus into mid- to late October, though there have been seasons where product was available in November, Flores said.
As of mid-April, the weather in the Western Cape growing region of South Africa has been ideal, with ample rainfall and warm days and nights, said Tom Cowan, South African sales manager for Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.
The onset of cooler weather in April should help fruit color and improve its taste, Cowan said.
“The internal quality looks very good, with the sugars running high and acids at desirable levels for this point in the season,” he said.
South African clementines will likely peak on 2s and 3s this season, Cowan said. Navels are expected to be slightly smaller than normal, with fruit peaking on 64s, 72s and 88s.
DNE expects its first shipments of clementines in early June, Cowan said. Clementines from South Africa were maturing one or two weeks earlier than usual as of mid-April, Cowan said.
About 3.8 million cartons of South African clementines are expected in the U.S. this season, up from 2.2 million cartons in 2011, Cowan said.
Clementines will ship through about mid-August, to be followed by late-season mandarins, which should ship through October.
South African navels should begin arriving in mid-June and ship through most of September, Cowan said. DNE expects midknights to ship from about late September to mid-November.