The orange industry is facing a “disaster”‚ with up to 40% of navels dropping off trees in the Eastern Cape.
A team from Citrus Research International, in Nelspruit, is i nve st i g at i n g the problem‚ which threatens to halve the harvest.
“In my 19 years in the industry‚ I have never seen anything like this‚” said Snyman Kritzinger‚ a farmer in the Gamtoos Valley, in the Eastern Cape‚ on the industry website FreshPlaza.
The loss of early and mid-season navel oranges is expected to reduce exports of 15kg cartons by between 15% and 20%. The original export estimate was 26.3 million cartons.
“At first we thought the harvest might be 30% lower but now we’re thinking it might be 50% down‚” said Hannes de Waal‚ MD of the Sundays River Citrus Company.
He said it was the first time in living memory that something like this had happened on such a scale. The skin of affected oranges splits, leading to infections and the fruit dropping off the tree.
Citrus Research International’s Hannes Bester blamed the disaster on the drought: “For a while now nature hasn’t been playing along. In the past 18 months we have had half our usual rainfall.”
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