Companies importing South African citrus have mixed reports on the effects a drought is having on the navel crop bound for the U.S.
Some anticipate volume to be down at least 20% as a result of splitting and drop, attributed to the extended dry weather, and others predict the drought will have a minimal effect on their citrus program, if any at all.
Miles Fraser-Jones, director of global business development for Seven Seas Global Produce Network, said 20-30% of the crop has been affected. Seven Seas is part of Springfield, Ill.-based Tom Lange Co.
Most of the South African navels available from Seven Seas will be sizes 64, 72 and 88, with larger sizes 48 and 56 in shorter supply.
July and August are usually heavy shipping months, but Fraser-Jones said the company will likely have a decrease in arrival volume around mid-August this year.
Gray Vinson, South Africa citrus commodity manager for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International, estimates about 25% of the company’s crop has been lost.
“Arrivals of navels in August will be affected,” Vinson said, “and we will be out of South African navels in September.”
Other companies did not foresee a particularly significant effect of the drought and associated issues on their crops.
Tom Cowan, South Africa sales manager for DNE World Fruit, a division of Delano, Calif.-based Wonderful Citrus, said the dry weather has had a number of effects.
“One of the results ... has been smaller-size fruit, but there have also been some positives, such as raising the sweetness of the fruit,” Cowan said. “Another positive aspect of the fruit this season is less scarring on the exterior skin and better color.”
The company also considers the small fruit a plus for its bagged program.
Chuck Yow, director of U.S. sales and business development for Capesan North America, said the company expects about a 10% decline from last year’s shipment volume. That could change, he said, but for now Capespan doesn’t view the extended dry weather as devastating for its South Africa navel crop.
“We’re by no means in a panic situation,” Yow said, noting that the Western Cape hasn’t been nearly as hard-hit by the drought as the Eastern Cape.
Because the California citrus season ended earlier than usual, Capespan is scrambling to get as much fruit available for the U.S. market as possible. Demand will likely be greater than supply before other countries supplying summer citrus begin their shipments, Yow said.
Andreas Economou, CEO for Philadelphia-based Tastyfrutti International, said his company also expects a strong market in the U.S. given the early finish by California.
Tastyfrutti doesn’t expect any decrease in volume due to the drought. It anticipates slightly higher volume this year because of some replantings, Economou said.
None of the companies expect the drought to affect the beginning of shipments, several of which are scheduled to kick off in mid- to late June.