The government has made a commitment to help South Africa’s citrus farmers forge trade links with the country’s BRICS partners, particularly, China and India, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said at the weekend.
Joemat-Pettersson was speaking after a meeting with the Citrus Growers’ Association and AgriSA in Johannesburg on Friday.
“On the part of the ministry … we’ve agreed that as government, we will be assisting the citrus industry to deepen market access in the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] nations, especially with India and China,” Joemat-Pettersson said.
“When we meet as BRICS agriculture ministers later in the year, we will discuss this further.”
South Africa is the world’s biggest exporter of oranges and the largest shipper of grapefruit.
However, South Africa’s citrus exports to the European Union (EU) are struggling due to citrus black spot, a fungal disease that affects the external appearance of the fruit, and which occurs in citrus plants throughout subtropical climates, causing a reduction in both fruit quantity and quality.
Joemat-Pettersson said the trade regime of citrus with China was “a bit complicated”, but that the government was committed to entering negotiations with China to help ease matters.
However, the minister emphasised that broadening citrus trade relations with BRICS countries was not an attempt to replace the EU market.
“This is not a replacement of the EU market, but the broadening and expanding of the citrus industry to access the BRICS market as well. The EU and the United States of America remain our traditional markets,” she said.
Joemat-Pettersson said the African continent was another new export destination for South Africa’s citrus industry. “Trade on the continent has also grown significantly, with Zimbabwe being one of the top importers of our citrus.”
The minister said Friday’s meeting also looked at transformation in the industry, adding that that government’s ambition was to grow the industry through increased market access.
The chairperson of the Citrus Growers Association, Pieter Nortje, said: “This is a great day for the citrus industry. It is wonderful that we agree and share absolute common goals with our government.
“We are the biggest employer of unskilled labour in the rural areas,” Nortje added. “All that we are asking for as the industry is to be assisted with trade links to access various markets as we are unable to enter into those agreements by ourselves.”