South African citrus officials and importers expect to increase shipments of fruit to the U.S. West and Midwest this season.

Gerrit van der Merwe, chairman of the Citrusdal, South Africa-based Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, said that in 2010 there was less fruit shipped to the Western U.S. than the industry would have liked.

In 2011, shippers and marketers will increase their efforts to market South African citrus in the Midwest and on the West Coast when it’s feasible, van der Merwe said.

“We are continuing to move into these new markets,” van der Merwe said. “The consumer demand for the premium fruit provided by South Africa to the U.S. is what has driven the growth over the last 10-plus years.”

David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., said the company will continue to push for additional sales in the West and Midwest.

“As volume permits, we are targeting these markets and continue to grow in these markets, depending on the niches and opportunities that take place,” he said.

Higher fuel costs, however, could play a role in how much South African fruit gets trucked west from its East Coast starting points, Mixon said.

“Freight will be a major decision as to market strategy.”

Marc Solomon, president and chief executive of Montreal-based Fisher Capespan, said the middle of the country is a more reliable market for the company’s South African citrus than the West.

“The Midwest has always been an important market for the South African citrus, and it will continue to be that,” he said. “The West is a potential market depending on the supply and demand situation.”

As they do on the East Coast, South African navels have a window of opportunity in the Midwest when the California navel deal winds down, typically in late June, said Tom Cowan, South African sales manager for Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.