The South African citrus season is well underway and a new harvest of ClemenGold mandarins is entering the Chinese market for the first time this year.
The citrus industry in South Africa is enjoying a bumper year and global exports are up, with soft citrus like the ClemenGold variety playing a big part in the boom.
In mid-July, Fruit Day, a Chinese e-commerce platform that specializes in fresh produce, and ClemenGold held a joint event to celebrate the new harvest and the fruit’s introduction to the Chinese market.
Abraham van Rooyen, ClemenGold founder and host of the event, sent a digital message to attendees, wishing them well and thanking them for their cooperation. Also in attendance was Huang Jing, spokeswoman for Fruit Day and the City Supermarket Fruit Supply Chain.
The popular ClemenGold citrus are described as uniform in colour, are typically 12-15% sweeter than regular mandarins, have a thick, easy-to-peel skin, and are ripened naturally with a sweet, tarte taste.
Selected from 60 South African farms encompassing around 4 000 hectares, ClemenGold citrus is considered a high-end fruit. Only 15-20% of citrus grown can be branded ClemenGold, according to Fresh Plaza, the global trade media platform for the fresh produce industry.
Citrus exports have risen substantially in the 2021 season, according to a new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report. Driven mainly by lemons and soft citrus, global exports surpassed 11 million tons, with soft citrus representing around 30% of total exports. According to the report, South Africa, China and Turkey were the biggest exporters of soft citrus and lemons, followed by Turkey and Mexico.
The Covid-19 pandemic has played a significant role in citrus’ bumper year. Professor Irrshad Kaseeram, a senior economics lecturer with the University of Zululand, said the arrival of the pandemic created an increase in the demand for vitamin C-laden products like oranges and lemons.
ClemenGold sales over the past decade and a half have also been prodigious. In its 16-year lifespan, the ClemenGold brand has become a grocery staple in more than 30 countries, and exports to China have risen from eight shipping containers in 2013 to an estimated 1 000 containers this year.
The appetite for premium South African citrus in China is significant, according to Van Rooyen. Of the nearly 45 000 tons of mandarins harvested this year, nearly half, around 20 000, will be to Chinese consumers according to Fresh Plaza.