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Common Names Orange Sweet Orange Round Orange
Varieties Navel Valencia
Sizes 2.5 inches in diameter
Season Navel: June-July Valencia: July-September
Packing Aerated cartons Each carton full of oranges weighs approximately 15kg
Storage and Transport Conditions 10-15 degrees Celsius Containerized shipping to maintain freshness
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Approximately 10% of the oranges consumed around the world come from South Africa. The consumption of South Africa oranges is also robust in the local market. The orange fruit is consumed fresh, but it is also processed for its juice.

The orange fruit is classified under the family Rutaceae and the species Citrus sinensis. It is also referred to as ‘sweet orange’ or ‘round orange’. The sweet orange tree grows to approximately 20-25 feet in height and has evergreen leaves which are broad and glossy. The orange fruit has a leathery peel and juicy inner flesh.

The sweet orange is native to ancient China. Portuguese navigators and Italian traders are assumed to have engaged in its distribution outside ancient China between 1450 and 1500. During this period, Europeans mainly used citrus fruits for medicinal purposes. The consumption of the sweet orange as a luscious fruit after the 1600s popularized it.

Production of South Africa oranges is designed for export purposes. They constitute approximately 60% of the total citrus exports from South Africa. In 2017, South Africa exported oranges worth R10 billion ($ 675 million). The exports mainly focused on the Asian and European markets. In 2018, South Africa exported 18% of its oranges to South-East Asia, 19% to the Middle-East and 33% to the European Union. 

The European Union is the biggest market for the produce. Other markets include Russia, U.S.A. and Canada.

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy projects that by 2028, the general citrus exports from South Africa will increase by 25% compared to its production in 2017. To attain this objective, South Africa should seek new markets for its produce.

Valencia is the dominant variety of oranges produced in South Africa. The Citrus Growers Association documents that in 2018 Valencia accounted for approximately 34% of citrus exports. Limpopo area accounted for more than 60% of the Valencia orange variant grown in South Africa.

The Navel variety is second compared to the Valencia variety in terms of production volume. In 2018, Navel accounted for 20% of South Africa’s citrus exports. The Eastern Cape is the biggest production area for this variant accounting for 39% of its volume.

The Navel variety is seedless, and propagated from grafts. The Valencia variety has a relatively thinner skin and also sweeter compared to Navel.

The availability of oranges in South Africa is dependent on the variety. The season for the Valencia variant ranges between July and September. On the other hand, the season for the Navel variant spans between June to July. 

An orange tree thrives in a sub-tropical climate. The growing period requires that temperatures be maintained between 12-37 degrees Celsius. The areas in South Africa with the optimum climate for growing conditions include Limpopo, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape.

Oranges are harvested by picking the fruit from the trees by hand upon maturity. They are then shipped to pack houses where they are sorted based on quality and size. The oranges are then packed in aerated cartons each weighing approximately 15Kg.

From the packhouses, the oranges are transported to the Port of Durban for export. They are packed in containerized shipping with conditions to maintain the freshness of the fruit. During transportation, they are stored in controlled temperatures that should not go below 10 degrees Celsius.

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