Contact: Lisa Packer
610-688-3164 (o)
215-460-8333 (m)                                                                                                

Planning Underway for South African Summer Citrus 2015 Season

AGOA, Texas and Expansion Goals for US Program 

Citrusdal, South Africa – May 1, 2015 – The Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum (WCCPF) conducted its annual planning sessions for the Summer Citrus export program to the US, with much of the discussion linked to the importance of the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA).  

The purpose of the meetings was to share goals, outline the program for the season, identify potential challenges, and define solutions prior to the first fruits arriving in the US. More than 125 representatives involved in the program assembled in the heart of the Western Cape’s citrus growing region for the series of meetings that included growers, US-based importers, receivers and service providers, shipping partners, and government representative and representatives from some of the US’ largest retailers.

The keynote address by Mr. Teddy B. Taylor, US Consul General to Cape Town, highlighted the South African Summer Citrus export program to the US as one of AGOA’s great success stories. “The citrus program provides 8,000 permanent and 12,000 temporary jobs. It has enabled the establishment of skills transfer and improved education and healthcare and recreational facilities in the Citrusdal valley,” he said. Taylor identified challenges to AGOA’s renewal, citing US expectations for access to South Africa markets for US products. AGOA renewal is currently before the US Congress, with a vote expected before the end of 2015.  

Ms. Suhanra Conradie, CEO of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, said, “The willingness of these valued and trusted partners to travel such a distance shows their continued interest and commitment to the success of the South African Summer Citrus program. We are grateful for their participation and partnership.”

Referencing business models of brand innovation evangelist and author Guy Kawasaki, Conradie championed the South African citrus program and its mantra, “Citrus You Can Roar About.”

“As we begin our 16th year, we have more reason than ever to roar about our citrus. We know that our future success is closely tied not only to the need for AGOA renewal but also to the collaboration of all the partners along the supply chain,” said Conradie. “We saw export growth of 12 percent with volumes of +/- 45,000 tons to the US achieved last year. The ongoing momentum is on a course to expand both value and volume, and hold prominent positioning in stores and establish our unique brand identity. This is all something we can roar about,” she said.

Successful pilot programs from 2014 will continue in 2015, enabling the fruit to reach the US consumer more quickly. The US Department of Agriculture has reduced the number of days from 24 to 22 during which the citrus must remain at cold temperatures. “The pilot of last season demonstrated with 100 percent success that 22 days is sufficient to meet the regulations of cold sterilization and the reduced time will apply again this season,” said Conradie.

Seatrade Group, WCCPF’s shipping partner for US exports, reported on the multi-faceted challenges of successful transport of the citrus to the US. “Maintaining near freezing temperatures within a margin of +/- .25’ while in transit is among the most difficult and demanding processes in global shipping,” said Dale Rolfe, Seatrade’s operations manager and cargo care consultant.  

Another 2014 pilot program to bring South Africa citrus to the Port of Houston, Texas proved successful and additional shipments will reach the port in 2015. “There is significant growth potential for South African Summer Citrus products in the Midwest and Far west regions of the US, and the Port of Houston is a key to that growth and expansion,” said Marc Solomon, senior vice president of Capespan North America, the largest receiver of the citrus. “The fruit can be received and quickly shipped to retail clients or bagged for their needs, resulting in significant freight savings.” The first vessels into the Port of Houston are expected in July.  

Under a new three--year agreement, the Port of Philadelphia will continue to receive the majority of citrus from South Africa shipped in conventional vessels. Container vessels will arrive into the Port of Newark, NJ. Eric Holt, logistics and commercial manager for Holt Logistics Corporation, highlighted the consistency of the South African citrus program. “South Africa is among those exporters which implements the most rigorous of standards,” said Holt. “International shipping is complicated but since the beginning of this program, we have partnered to avoid problems and then worked together to fix any that arise – something that is easier when there is shared vision to achieve 100 percent compliance.”

Among the changes in the shipping for 2015 is the use of standardized wooden pallets for all citrus shipments to the US this year. This comes after pre-approved pallets developed problems in 2014. “While the fruit was not impacted, this change prevents a problem before it can occur this season,” said Conradie. “Holt Logistics as well as the Port of Houston, and the USDA and South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries were instrumental in managing this matter last season.”

Working with newly commissioned data about retail and consumer needs and buying habits from the Nielsen Perishables Group, CPF is planning promotional initiatives in collaboration with importer partners. In addition, DMA Solutions, a Texas--based marketing firm specializing in fresh fruit, is providing key market direction to the CPF, particularly as it seeks to expand into Texas.

As a special guest speaker at the CPF’s Planning session, DMA Solutions President and CEO Dan’l Mackey Almy said, “The brand of the South Africa Summer Citrus product is evident in the vibrancy of the taste and the overall quality of the fruit. Based on the commitment to quality and delivering on the brand promise I was able to see first-hand while visiting with the growers, I believe buyers and consumers alike will increasingly look to South African Summer Citrus as being a premier choice.”

In collaboration with importer partners AMC Direct, Capespan North America, DNE World, and SealdSweet International, the logo and King Citrus mascot of South African Summer Citrus will be more visible on packaging and in stores to drive brand awareness in the US. In addition, CPF will be more visible with retailers at both United Fresh 2015 in Chicago at the beginning of the season and PMA’s Fresh Summit in Atlanta in October.

Volumes for 2015 are expected to be similar to those of 2014. Commodities and Varieties are: Easy Peelers: Clementines, Novas/Clemenvillas, Fairchilds, Or (Clemenor), Clemengold (Nadorcott), Mor (Honeygold); Navels: Navels, Cambria navels, Autumn Gold navels, Midknights, Cara-Cara navels, and Grapefruit: Star Ruby.

First shipments are expected into the Port of Philadelphia at Gloucester City, NJ in late June with some container shipments arriving sooner at the Port of Newark, NJ.

South African Summer Citrus complements the domestic citrus industry from June through October when US grown citrus is less available. The WCCPF facilitates logistical, marketing and sales support coordination of products for its members.  Its mission is to maintain and expand its role as the preferred and reliable supplier of fresh and safe summer citrus for the US.