More Ocean Spray-branded citrus on retail shelves this year will come from South Africa.

DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., which markets product for Ocean Spray, has boosted its South African imports in 2002, its second year importing from the country. The first product, clementines, should begin arriving in mid- to late-May.

“We’re substantially up over last year,” said David Mixon, DNE’s vice president. “We’ve established a bigger grower base this year.”

Mixon expects DNE to import 350,000 to 450,000 cartons of navels, 400,000 cartons of clementines and 300,000 to 400,000 cartons of midknight seedless oranges from South Africa in 2002. The company also will import an undetermined quantity of minneolas and clemenvillas.

In all, 20% of DNE imports this year will come from South Africa, Mixon said, up from a year ago. The company also imports citrus from Australia, Spain, Argentina and Chile. Domestically, it markets product from Florida, Texas and California.

Product will ship through the Holt Terminal in Gloucester, N.J., and be distributed throughout the U.S., Mixon said. South African clementines will ship from May to September, navels from June to early September and midknights from late August to early November.

Also new in this year’s DNE South Africa deals, in addition to higher quantities, are new packaging, greater food-safety and quality-control standards and tighter control of supplies.

In packaging, DNE will pack all clementines in a 2.3-kilogram box similar to the Spanish clementine box, which Mixon said is the one most recognized and accepted by North American consumers. Mixon said the variety of packaging for South African clementines last year hurt the commodity’s reception in the U.S.

Also new in packaging is a 60 centimeter by 40 centimeter two-layer open tray to be used for large clementines, large minneolas and clemenvillas.

To boost quality control and food safety, on-site agronomists will check product in the field and in packing sheds, and inspectors will check it again upon arrival in the U.S., Mixon said.

To maintain steady supplies and a sustainable market, DNE put more effort this year into working with grower-shippers to prevent oversupply.

“In the past, sporadic delivery to the U.S. has been a factor in the South African program,” Mixon said. “We’ve worked hard with growers and packers to be more market-driven than production-driven.”

Mixon said that as DNE expands its citrus program in the future, it could import product from other countries.