Importers of South African citrus expect strong demand this summer.

The season should be a nice change of pace from 2010, at least at the beginning of the deal, said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla.

“There will be a strong market at the start,” Mixon said. “Unlike last year, California should be finished earlier.”

Light shipments of navels, clementines and grapefruit are expected in early June, with the first vessel arriving later in the month.

Later in the season, South African shippers find strong demand for midknights, a valencia-type variety, said Tom Cowan, South African sales manager for Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.

“They’ve done well in the late September, October period in the U.S. market in recent years,” Cowan said. “The opportunity for expanding the volume depends on the startup on the new California navel crop. If California navels are later starting, there is more opportunity.”

When it comes to South African clementines, demand picks up as the season progresses, Cowan said.

“South African clementines face stiff competition early in the season from both Chile and Peru, which both are closer to the U.S. market,” Cowan said. “An excellent time to promote them is the two weeks before the Fourth of July.”