Chinese imports of South African agricultural products are proving increasingly valuable, as local and global economies continue to stutter.
Citrus and apples grown in the country’s favourable conditions are also growing in demand amongst Asian customers.
South African exporters have worked diligently to open new international destinations for produce since 1994.
The country has steadily strengthened its foothold in the global market, particularly after the signing of several free trade agreements (FTAs) – including the Southern African Development Community and the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement – which account for 65% of the country’s total agricultural exports in 2020, according to an Econ 3×3 article.
Citrus exports remain the chief agricultural contributor by value to the economy, despite experiencing a 22% dip after access to Black Sea ports was lost (Russia accounted for 7% of local citrus and 12% of local apple and pear exports respectively).
In August 2021, South Africa and China signed a protocol for the export of citrus, and the newly forged alliance has been a lifeline to South African traders.
Shanghai ports have processed a total of 4.72 billion Yuan ($656.6 million) of African agricultural products between January and August, according to a report by Fresh Plaza.
The docks at Yangshan Wharf received a 504-tonne container of citrus in mid-September, which had been distributed to local markets by the next morning, the report detailed.
Chinese workers are so efficient in part due to the “green channel” built by Shanghai customs that expedites the turnaround times between the docks and supermarket shelves.
The convenient and efficient customs clearance for Southern African produce has boosted his confidence enough to expand the scale of his imports, said Liu Mosu, general manager at Shanghai Niuguo Agricultural Technology.
Apple exports to China topped one million boxes in October 2022. It marks the first time the figure has been achieved and is up 30% year-on, according to HortGro Pome.
South African apples benefit from their anti-season status and capture a gap in the Chinese market between February and August. Top export varieties to China are dominated by Fuji and Royal Gala, which represent an estimated 92% of apple exports.
South Africa supplanted the US and Chile as one of China’s primary apple sources, according to the General Administration of Customs. The tonnage, an estimated 12 281, is up 64% year-on and accounts for 18% of China’s total apple imports.