In normal times, we would be rejoicing with citrus farmers this year. Southern Africa could have a record 143.3 million cartons of citrus fruit for the export market this year, according to data from the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa. This is up by 13% from the previous season. But these aren’t normal times. The spreading COVID-19 is already disrupting global supply chains, and we are already seeing early negative signs through a decline in commodity prices.

In the case of Southern Africa’s citrus, the EU region, where the coronavirus COVID-19 is currently spreading the fastest, is one of the key export markets (roughly half of South Africa’s exports go to the UK and EU).  Any prolonged disruptions in logistics there would present risks for Southern Africa’s citrus farming community and other exporters to this region, especially as the industry is approaching the harvesting period.

So, while the expected abundant supply of agricultural commodities – grains and fruits, amongst other products – provides comfort that South Africa will have enough food for its consumers, at least a national level, the farming economy could take a knock in the event of notable decline in global demand. Of which, at this point, this seems likely.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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