South African citrus growers shipped 24% more citrus to the U.S. in 2010 than in 2009.

South African citrus imports up 24%

Courtesy Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum

South African citrus growers shipped 24% more product to the U.S. in the 2010 season, which ended with this October shipment.

About 41,528 tons of clementines, navel oranges, midknight oranges and grapefruit were exported to the U.S. in 2010, said Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrusdal, South Africa-based Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum.

U.S. consumers have embraced summer citrus in general and South African product in particular, van der Merwe said.

“Consumers are getting used to having a year round supply of oranges and clementines available,” he said. “And with its vibrant color and taste and beautiful appearance, consumers see the fruit from South Africa as superior to other citrus choices.”

Van Der Merwe expects further category growth in the future, despite increased competition from Chile, which began exporting navels to the U.S. in 2009.

“The increase in demand for summer citrus has enabled the marketplace to absorb what has been imported,” he said.

About 24,629 tons of navels and 7,721 tons of midknights were exported from South Africa to the U.S., a 22% increase for the orange category.

About 8,935 tons of clementines shipped, 29% more than in 2009, and in the first year South African grapefruit was allowed into the U.S., about 232 tons were imported.