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Following a better-than-expected harvest in the southern hemisphere, global perishable shipments are set to soar this year, according to new research from Drewry.

The analyst has predicted that following two years of declines, global reefer shipments are expected to post 1% growth this year across all commodities, led by a strong growth in citrus exports, particularly out of South Africa.

“Good growing seasons have supported improved deciduous exports so far this year, and South Africa’s citrus season is likely to deliver further growth with new orchards coming into production, and good growing conditions expected to benefit orange, lemon and grapefruit exports,” wrote Drewry shipping analyst Malcolm Ramsay.

“Similarly, in New Zealand, although a slow start for kiwis this year, it is expected to develop into a good crop later, with export volumes substantially up from last year’s disappointing performance.

“The major seaborne reefer commodity trade of meat and bananas also started the year with positive momentum, posting single digit growth year-on-year,” he added.

Drewry has forecast a growth in citrus shipments of around 3.6% this year compared to last, with Exotic fruits set to grow by slightly under 3%; meat shipments just under 1% and banana shipments by a little over 0.5%.

“Building on the momentum seen in the first few months of the year, Drewry expects improvements in exports and a continued decline in reefer freight rates to shape the outlook this year, with overall worldwide seaborne reefer volumes set to increase by more than 1% in 2024,” Mr Ramsay added.

However, according to estimates released by the World Citrus Organisation, there are caveats to this – global citrus production is expected to marginally contract by 0.7% to a global total of 24.3m tonnes.

“Exports, however, are expected to continue increasing, with a projected growth of 7.45% compared to 2023 to reach 4.15m tonnes,” the WCO said in April at its annual general meeting.

However, it noted a mixed picture in terms of specific citrus fruits – orange production is expected to decline 4% to 15.5m tonnes, while lemons and grapefruits are forecast to both growth around 11% to 3.2m tonnes and 532,000 tonnes respectively.

Whether there is demand in importing markets remains open to question however, with South Africa’s Citrus Growers Association warning that Europe is likely to be oversupplied with lemons over the next month, and possibly under supplied later in the season.

It noted that 8m cartons of lemons have so far been shipped from South Africa, compared to 11.1m at the same point in 2023, while its full year forecast is 36.8m cartons versus 35.6m shipped last year.

However, new markets are also opening up – for example, in March new bilateral protocol signed with Vietnam has opened up the Asian country to South African orange exports.

This may induce container lines to offer new calls for South African exporters, as currently a not a single South Africa-Asia service features a direct call in Vietnam, according to The Loadstar’s analysis of the eeSea liner database.

Check out today’s Loadstar Podcast, featuring Hapag-Lloyd and Seko Logistics

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