Grapefruit and the closely-related pomelo are somewhat unremarkable products. That is in the sense that they seemingly show little movement. There is therefore little interest in these products. Worldwide production is growing strongly. However, cross-border trade has been fairly stable in volume for years. There have, nonetheless, been some underlying changes. Exports from the United States have fallen sharply. That has, however, been offset by sharp growth in exports from China.
The significant production increase is, thus, mostly due to growth in China. Production of mainly Chinese pomelos has grown. At the turn of the century, it was less than 200,000 tons. Now it is nearly five million tons. That is according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. During the same period, production in the US fell from 2.5 million to 500,000 tons. After China, Vietnam is now the second-largest grapefruit (pomelo) producer, with 800,000 tons. Mexico (500,000 tons) and South Africa (400,000 tons) follow. So says Jan Kees Boon of Fruit & Vegetable Facts.
South Africa is the top exporter
South Africa is the world’s biggest grapefruit exporter, with around 250,000 tons annually. Turkey and China are other major exporting countries. The Netherlands comes in fourth. Naturally, this concerns re-export. Other medium-sized “real” export countries are Israel, Spain, and the United States.
Globally, the Netherlands is the top import country. In recent years that has always been just under 200,000 tons. That is more than ten years ago, but not by much. Russia (100 to 150,000 tons), China (60,000 to 80,000 tons), and France (70,000) are other import countries, As are Japan (60,000 to 70,000), Germany (50,000 to 60,000), Poland (50,000 to 60,000), and Ukraine (30,000 to 40,000).
This year, the Netherlands began importing more from China
The last import season ran from October 2020 to September 2021. And the Netherlands imported 180,000 tons of grapefruit/pomelos. That is slightly less than in previous seasons. With 77,000 tons, China was the main supplier. That is about the same amount as the three previous seasons. South Africa was at number two with a quantity of 67,00 tons. That, too, is not very different from the three previous seasons.
These two major suppliers’ seasons barely overlap. It is only in September that both are on the market. China supplies the Netherlands from October to early February. And South African grapefruit arrives in the Netherlands from May to early September. The Netherlands also imports grapefruit from the US, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland.
South Africa exported a lot to China
This year, China – a top exporter – was an important buyer for South Africa – the world’s largest grapefruit exporter. Until this year, the Netherlands was South Africa’s most important buyer. Several countries follow at a distance with several tens of thousands of tons. These are Japan, Russia, and Hong Kong.
Turkey exports a lot to Eastern European countries
Turkey is also a large exporter. Russia was their top client. Ukraine, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria followed at some distance. The Netherlands is by far China’s most important grapefruit/pomelo buyer. Ukraine and Romania follow at a distance.
There is a strikingly large decline in exports to Russia. Medium-sized exporting countries include Israel, Spain, and the United States. Israel’s top buyers are France and Japan. For Spain, they are Germany and France. The US mainly supplies Canada, Japan, and Korea.