South Africa saw off its first shipment of citrus from the Port of Durban to the new multimillion-rand Philippine market yesterday.
The new market presented the country with the potential to export 20 000 tons of citrus fruit and earn close to R205 million a year.
The Citrus Growers Association of South Africa (CGA) said yesterday that this would also translate into more desperately needed job opportunities at a time when Covid-19 had devastated many other industries and led to millions of job losses.
In the first quarter of this year, employment in the agricultural sector was down 8% year-on-year, with 792 000 people employed. This was the lowest level since 2014, which was a drought year.
The country was in a drought season and the Agricultural Business Chamber said the decline in jobs seemed to be concentrated within sectors affected by the lockdown regulations, such as horticulture, wine grapes and game.
The export of citrus fruit to the Philippines was the culmination of 12 years of negotiations between the two countries, with a landmark plan being signed between the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the Philippines Bureau of Plant and Industry at the end of last year.