- Lemons coming out of South Africa are bigger this season, thanks to late rains that helped the fruit gain in size.
- Ideally, a 15kg carton of lemons takes 100, 113, or 138 lemons; with the current sizes, only 88 lemons fill up the boxes.
- Lemon orchards are also producing more fruit which bodes well for this year's crop volumes.
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Late, heavy rains, especially in parts of Port Elizabeth, where key citrus-producing regions lie, have helped South African lemons reach larger than expected sizes.
Over the past weeks, farmers in the Eastern Cape have been picking significantly larger lemons, Leroux Venter, chairman of the Lemon focus Group of the Citrus Growers' Association, told Business Insider South Africa.
"Late rains in the Eastern Cape helped a lot, and we started noticing larger fruit coming out of the orchards the last few weeks," he said.
Although the early rains in September 2021 signaled a good crop for the 2022 season, a lack of it in the middle of the season slowed the growth of lemons, which weren’t reaching an ideal size.
"We started the harvest with slightly smaller fruit. We had good spring rains, then we didn't get the follow-up rains to help the size of the fruit [to] grow, so the first pickings of the season we saw were smaller," he said.
The size of the fruit in the citrus industry is determined by the number of fruits a 15kg carton can take. Ideally, a 15kg box should fit 100, 113, or 138 lemons; anything above that is considered too small. During the first pickings for the season, a 15kg carton took as many as 162, Venter said.
"After the first fruit came off, the late rains helped a bit; now we're going to a 88 count," he said.
Hennie Ehlers, Chairman of the Sunday Rivers Valley Citrus Producers' Forum in the Eastern Cape, said farmers in the region were touting Russia as an export destination for the larger fruit but are currently experiencing challenges as a result of Russia's war against Ukraine.
"Our marketing options for this larger fruit has been Russia - but as a result of the war, this market is currently under severe pressure.
"Rain in the Eastern Cape has come at the right time. Good crops were set, and fruit size is also at optimum levels," he said.