Grapefruit volumes from South Africa should increase this season, and importers expect gains in other citrus categories.


Marc Solomon, president and chief executive of Montreal-based Fisher Capespan, expects a strong sophomore performance from the company’s South African grapefruit program this season.


Grapefruit were cleared for export to the U.S. in 2010.


“We’ll have grapefruit from June through the middle of August and, based on the favorable response from our customers last year, we will be expanding this program,” Solomon said.


Orange volumes should be similar for Fisher Capespan in 2011, but clementine shipments will likely be down, he said.


Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrusdal, South Africa-based Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, also expects strong demand for South African grapefruit in the U.S. in 2011.


“Grapefruit was well-received last season and will continue to be imported to the U.S. in 2011,” van der Merwe said. “Shipments will begin in June.”


South African growers are developing late-season navel varieties, including the autumn gold, said Tom Cowan, South African sales manager for Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.


“It looks promising,” Cowan said of the autumn gold. “It has good qualities, like better exterior color and higher brix.”


Another growth opportunity for South African citrus in the U.S. lies in the late-season mandarin category, Cowan said.


Two varieties, the clemengold and the honeygold, have excellent skin color and taste and are easy to peel, he said.


They also have a longer shelf life than earlier clementine varieties, he said.


Cara cara navels and minneola tangelos also are strong niche items on the South African product roster, Cowan said.


Cara caras, which ship from early August through September, have a reddish flesh and high brix levels.


“They’re a good item to promote to the higher-end customer,” he said. “The volumes are limited and usually committed to retailers early for programs.”


DNE brings minneolas in from late July through mid-September.


Industrywide, the varietal mix of navels, clementines, grapefruit, cara caras, clemengolds and midkinghts should be mostly unchanged this year, with only one exception, said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla.


“Clementines will be down around 20%,” he said.


Seald Sweet, however, expects to increase volumes on all South African citrus commodities this season, Mixon said.


“Our vertical integration with our grower partners has increased the total acreage in the Western Cape growing district considerably with purchasing of additional farms,” he said.


In the South African grapefruit category — new to North America in 2010 — Seald Sweet expects growth, Mixon said.


“We will have limited volumes, but look to build this variety over the next few years,” he said.