With the latest of a series of winter storms sweeping over the South African Western Cape region, citrus and other fruit growers are facing a difficult period of recovery. For the last ten days all citrus harvesting in the Oliphant’s River Valley, the most important region supplying summer citrus to the US, has been suspended. Infrastructure in the Valley and in other parts of the Western Cape has been damaged, with key roads washed away and communities in rural regions flooded.
The winter storms in these regions have been described as the worst since 2008 when floods rose to record levels in places. It comes when significant volumes of South African citrus are due to be discharged in the US later this week, marking the real start of the marketing season. Significant volumes have also been shipped by containers since April. Industry leaders said that before the storms started enough fruit had been packed for the first three vessels, but that their departure could be delayed.