UK trading director Martin Dunnett said 2005 had been tough for orange and grapefruit growers in particular, with an over-supply of southern hemisphere fruit and a strong rand making life difficult.
The latter is an increasing problem for exports. Two years ago, the exchange rate with the UK was 15-18 rand to £1. This week it was 10.7.
Dunnett said: “Citrus growers need a better performance in 2006 or some won’t make it. One told me he couldn’t afford another year like last year, and that he won’t export fruit if he can’t get better returns.”
South African citrus volumes will be 10-20% down on last year and will be late to the market. A drought last year has hit production of oranges and grapefruit in the north, although spring rains followed before Christmas, which should mean bumper yields in 2007.
Easy peeler satsumas are on course for arrival in the UK in April. Lemons are available for picking now, but with reports of plentiful Spanish supplies remaining, some South African growers are likely to consider alternative markets for now.
Pear volumes will be down by some 30-40% following very hot, dry conditions in the Western Cape that have delayed development of blush varieties, such as Rosemarie, which require cool nights to colour up.
But good quality Pink Lady, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples are all expected, though stone fruit volumes are down.