CCM President Casey Creamer visited South Africa last week as part of a California trade delegation. The delegation was put together by California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. Also participating was Karla Nemeth, Director of the California Department of Water Resources; Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation District; Randy Record, Record Family Wines and Board Member of Metropolitan Water District; Abby Taylor-Silva, Vice President of Grower Shipper Association of Central California; Don Cameron, General Manager of Terranova Ranch and Chairman of the State Department of Food and Agriculture; Josh Eddy, Executive Director of the State Board of Food and Agriculture; and Dr. Amrith Gunasekara, Science Advisor to the Secretary at CDFA.
Citrus was a hot topic on the trip because of a pending access petition for South African citrus outside of the Western Cape, which already has access. There has been a major increase in mandarin acreage as it is the number one crop in South Africa for grower returns. Citrus has been planted in suboptimal locations replacing traditionally wine grape acreage in some regions. Experimentation is also occurring with permanent netting in both tree fruit and citrus. The primary reason for netting in citrus is to reduce cross-pollination, but growers are also seeing reductions in pest pressures, increased water savings, and more rapid tree growth.
Water was heavily discussed with growers and government officials in the Western Cape. The Western Cape recently experienced a drought that was even more significant than the drought in California. The City of Cape Town was on a “Day Zero” countdown meaning the city was very close to running out of water. The “Day Zero” campaign led to significant reductions in per capita water use. Farmers in the region were heavily reliant on surface water resources which were curtailed and even eliminated by the government.
“The interactions with the South African government along with time spent with the California delegation made the long journey worthwhile,” stated CCM President Casey Creamer. “Water, Huanglongbing, and trade are our top priorities at CCM and the trip was beneficial on all fronts.”
The delegation met with high-level government officials in South Africa including the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, the United States Consulate, and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. Additionally, the delegation visited South African agricultural research institutions and conversed with South African farmers including citrus operations in Stellenbosch.
The Western Cape of South Africa has citrus import access to the United States. Now, as South Africa citrus production continues to increase significantly, other areas of the country are petitioning for access as well.
The trade mission was a unique opportunity for CCM to interact with the United States, California, and South African leaders on water and trade issues.