Courtesy Western Cape Citrus Producers ForumAs chief executive officer of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, Suhanra Conradie focuses on citrus export process to the U.S.Suhanra Conradie sees South Africa’s export citrus program to the U.S. as a model for other industries in South Africa.
“Our program is small — only 3% of our citrus goes to the U.S., but it has become so strong and is a lifeline for many all along the supply chain here and in the U.S.,” she said.
“It is humbling to me to have a chance to contribute in a small way to supporting it.”
Conradie grew up on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, the child of teachers (her father was a head master and inspector of schools).
After finishing high school, she went west to attend the University of Stellenbosch, earning a degree in commerce, economics and accounting.
Stellenbosch’s proximity to fruit production areas helped pave the way to Conradie’s role in exporting citrus to the U.S.
“I have worked with different fruit commodities. My focus now is citrus and specifically that of the interests of those farmers who comprise the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum — those growers from the western and northern cape regions approved to export their citrus from South Africa to the U.S.”
Her work with South African citrus allows Conradie to leverage her experience in other commodities.
“I have been working in the fruit export business since I have finished university, and, since this is an industry with hard-working people, you make business connections all over the world,” she said.
“In my current role as CEO of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, I am involved exclusively with the export process of the citrus to the U.S. This position has enabled me to fulfill my goal of working with and in the U.S. Previously, I had worked with other countries around the world, including the Middle East, Europe and Asia.”
“There is still growth to be had in the U.S. market for South Africa,” she said.
“Our growth will be seen in expansion deeper in to the country and farther west. Our importer partners have been so important to growing this program, and we expect this partnership to continue. Our priority will always be quality and safety — on these there will be no compromise.”
She sees the citrus forum’s success as a road map for other South African exporters.
“The model of the citrus program to the U.S. as one of success to other industries in South Africa can’t be underestimated, and we must continue to hold it up,” she said.
While Conradie takes pride in supplying fruit to U.S. consumers, to her the effort is much more: an example of how something as simple as an orange or a clementine or a grapefruit can help an emerging nation like South Africa become economically strong and contribute to growth of all people.
Conradie sees her experience as a way to attract promising talent and groom future leaders for South Africa’s fruit export trade.
“I am not unaware that as a woman in a position such as this, there is also a greater responsibility to demonstrate to others just emerging from university that there are opportunities for those willing to work hard.
“In the past two years, it has been a privilege for me to offer mentorship to several students from various universities in South Africa. This has meant a great deal to me because it is a reminder that my experiences can help others.”