Harvesting has begun on SAFE’s citrus farms in Limpopo, and the healthy crop promises to deliver excellent yields.
This is the view of Dries van Rooyen, SAFE’s general manager of farming operations.
According to Dries, “We started picking the lemons last week at Skilderkrans near Hoedspruit where 100 ha are planted to lemons, 100 ha to Valencia oranges and 12 ha to grapefruit. In the next week or so we’ll also be harvesting at Marble Hall.”
He said the fruit on the citrus farms “in the north” is in excellent health with no sign of any blemishes or hail damage.
“We were fortunate this season in that we had no adverse weather conditions at all; nature has been kind to us unlike in the past, and this has also contributed to the excellent crop. We are also able to send good volumes of high quality citrus through our packing sheds.
“It is also true that our investment in more scientific farming methods and our planting of new orchards is delivering good results.
“For the last three years we have intensified our soil improvement programme and have also been experimenting with new low dose pesticides and fertilisers, in collaboration with Hans Le Grange and other consultants from Lowveld AgroChem. (LAC). This has clearly been of benefit to us.
“We expect yields from these citrus farms to be up by about 20% on last year, of which 10% is due to improved farming methods and 10% a result of the new orchards, which are now starting to bear fruit – so our packing volumes will be higher.
“This is the first year we have exported soft citrus produce from Limpopo, this a big milestone for us.”
Meanwhile SAFE remains optimistic of a harvest in the Western Cape. “Water from the Berg River to our dams has been severely restricted since January, leading to a lack of irrigation and subsequent challenges to our harvest which we will strive to overcome. We are working closely with Bonathaba manager, Christie Henn at Wellington, to harvest as much of the “soft citrus” crop in the Western Cape as they can. The crop has suffered the impact of the drought.
While the Western Cape crop represents a small percentage of our overall expected crop in 2018 it will become a key production area in the future. SAFE is working on ensuring the extensive citrus developments are protected.
“What we will do after we have harvested, is take the opportunity to prune the trees for optimal crops next season, ” said Dries.
“And of course, we hope the drought will end in time for a really great harvest.”