About three-quarters of South Africa’s grapefruit, both white and red, have been shipped. Fruit quality and packouts have been good.

After an early crop that was almost “abnormally” skewed towards the larger calibres (with a peak on count 35), fruit at either end of the size spectrum are being held back because of resistance in the EU, Middle East, Far East and Russia.

Overall shipped volumes are only slightly up (4%) YTD to the previous two years, but after a banging start the season is likely to “fizzle out” fairly quickly, notes the grapefruit focus group’s latest memo.

Grapefruit sales down by 25% in Japan
Japan is a dominant buyer of South African Star Ruby and Marsh grapefruit, but sales have been down by a quarter compared to last year in a campaign that has been severely impacted by logistical difficulties as well as (particularly in the case of Marsh grapefruit) the absence of HoReCa sales.

“At these sales levels there are four to five weeks of grapefruit stock in the market, with three more conventional vessels still to discharge,” notes the grapefruit focus group of the Citrus Growers’ Association. “This excludes the vessels currently loading and others still in the planning.”

South Africa’s exports to Japan started earlier and it is expected that overall volumes to Japan will be lower this season.

Jump in processing grade exports depresses Chinese prices
In China the arrival of two conventional vessels with South African grapefruit has coincided with a slide in the price. Up until week 23 red grapefruit exports to China went up by 22%.

Chinese receivers will work away the volumes, but, they warn, pricing will be below what the fruit was loaded for. 

The large jump in the export of processing grade grapefruit – up 30% from 12% last season – is not doing class 1 fruit in China any favours and it is a matter of some concern to the Citrus Growers’ Association as well as some exporters.

“The most important question coming out of this season is whether we are adding value to growers or destroying value by virtue of the high volume of PP fruit exported coupled with the concern that the fruit might not be used for processing purposes but end up at sales points in competition with Class 1 fruit.”

The focus group would welcome a drastic reduction in the exports of processing grade fruit to China as well as the exclusion of count 35s, a move which might, they say, improve grapefruit prospects for the rest of the season.

There has been no visible increase in the exports of processing fruit to other markets and this year’s trading data will be analysed to better understand the trend – if such it is – of exporting processing grade grapefruit.