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Gijsbert van Leeuwen, Olympic Fruit:

"High juice prices solidify the juice orange market"

The South African citrus season has already kicked off at Olympic Fruit with the arrival of the first grapefruits. "The grapefruits arrived a bit early for the European market, as Spain was still active in the market, but now the Spanish volumes are also starting to decline," says Head of Sourcing Gijsbert van Leeuwen.

"Contrary to initial forecasts, it seems that the rest of the citrus will be hitting the market a bit later. The first early varieties of mandarins, such as the Satsumas, have arrived, followed by the first Clementines," Gijsbert shares. "With mandarins, we're now seeing a gap in the market, as people are waiting for the first Clementines to begin."

"The juice orange market has been quite challenging for a long time. However, the sales of Egyptian Valencias are starting to improve, and both demand and prices are on the rise," Gijsbert continues. "Currently, the larger sizes from Egypt are being sold for 10-11 euros. That's not enough for the South African fruit, but I also foresee a revival in the coming weeks, especially in demand for the larger sizes."

High juice prices
"South Africa needs higher prices, firstly because of the increased costs, but also because global juice prices are significantly higher, as Brazil, a juice giant, has much lower volumes due to citrus greening (HLB). These juice prices currently set a solid floor in the market, making it a challenge to sell all grades at the right prices," says Gijsbert.

The initial estimates showed higher harvest forecasts. "But that's mainly based on what's hanging on the trees," Gijsbert emphasizes. "It doesn't automatically mean that more will be exported. Measures regarding Citrus Black Spot continue to loom over the market, and more fruit will find its way to the processing industry. Additionally, across the board, from grapefruit to Clementines and Navels, the sizing is turning out smaller."

Growth in lemon and late mandarin plantings
"In new plantings, we're not seeing any major shifts. The last few years, due to rising costs, haven't been very profitable, and investment space for South African growers is limited. However, there is still growth in the production of lemons and late mandarins, such as Orri and Nadorcott," Gijsbert explains. "Additionally, we see that in Argentina, the availability of lemons for export is much lower due to severe inflation and because large volumes have been removed from production. This could present opportunities for South African exporters."

Although there are more and more continents in the market for South African citrus, Gijsbert expects Europe to always remain a necessary outlet. "About 30 to 35% of the volume goes to Europe. That volume won't easily be taken over by a market like China, with all its specifications. However, you do see that, for example, from the United States, where there was a smaller harvest, there is currently a lot of citrus being sourced from the Western Cape."

Direct line from Port Elizabeth
"Logistically, importing from South Africa remains challenging, especially given the delays the Port of Cape Town has experienced due to all the issues with the wind. Fortunately, a direct line from Port Elizabeth has now been added, which hopefully will result in less accumulation of fruit as we've seen in previous seasons. However, the entire situation with South African ports and capacity remains challenging."

Olympic Fruit is also busy developing new varieties. "Now, the introduction with citrus isn't as rapid as with, say, grapes, but there are definitely interesting novelties in the pipeline. We are in full discussion with breeders, growers, and customers. We want to explore the endless opportunities in fruit together. It's no coincidence that our campaign, which we recently launched, is called 'Be part of the Olympic Journey'. One of the trips Olympic Fruit is inviting its relations to in 2024 is the Citrus Congress on November 5 and 6 in Valencia. Desmond Jas (Head of Olympic Fruit) will also be one of the speakers there.

For more information:
Gijsbert van Leeuwen
Olympic Fruit
Handelscentrum ZHZ 55
2991 LD Barendrecht
Tel: 06-15031775
[email protected]

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