SA oranges scrum down in US

20 July 2004

Australia may win at rugby (sometimes), but when it comes to oranges South Africa’s certainly not green. Local oranges are giving the Australian variety the boot in US markets, and we just need one province – the Western Cape – to do it.

Agricultural trade between South Africa and the US is generally considered to be low, making up only 3.9% of total exports to the US in 2002, but citrus fruits appear to be the exception, Business Day reported recently in its trade supplement, The South African Exporter.

South Africa is now the largest supplier of fresh oranges to the United States, with some US$24-million worth of oranges exported in 2003 alone, accounting for about 48% of the total US orange imports, together valued at almost $50-million.

That’s thanks in part to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, also known as Agoa, that was introduced by the US government some four years ago and strips import tariffs from around 7 000 goods from African countries.

The Western Cape is the only province permitted to export oranges to the US, given the market’s strict sanitary requirements, which the province meets. The province is also expanding the production of “easy peelers”, which are popular in the US.

Australia is the second largest exporter of oranges to the US, but its exports have declined recently.

Economists describe South Africa’s dominance of the US market as “spectacular” in the light of the fact that the US has preferential trade agreements particular to oranges with several other countries.

South African naartjie exports to the US are also on the up, more than doubling in 2003 to $12.4-million. reporter