Sun Orange Farms is a fruit producing entity mainly focused on the production of citrus fruits. Persimmons are the other fruit type grown. Of all the citrus producing areas in the world the Sundays River Valley is one of the most suited to growing the widest range of citrus fruit types. For this reason it was possible to include in our available cultivars a wide range which are harvested from March to the end of September. This enables the company to create employment for seasonal staff over a long period of nine months (seven months for harvesting and two additional months for pruning).
As mentioned in the company overview cultivars were a critical element in the planning of the project to ensure a competitive edge in the market. These cultivars were selected for various reasons which will now be explained in more detail in the discussion of each cultivar.
Existing Cultivars pre Project
1. Palmer & McClean Navels
Commodity products inherited from the original Sun Orange plantings and particularly are the regular traditional Navels. These don’t command a premium normally but are marketed under the Fairtrade Label (more about that later) which mostly commands a premium and also returns a social premium which is invested in the community They are also useful to provide continuity of supply in Navel Oranges for the market.
2. Robyn Navels
These are also commodity products inherited from the original Sun Orange plantings but are the oldest of the late maturing Navel cultivars and are currently also mainly sold under the Fairtrade Label.
3. SRA63 & Nules Clementine
Old traditional commodity established in the eighties. It is a seedless type easypeeler of good internal quality. Although generally supply in the past few years has been excessive with poor returns those sold by Sun Orange as Fairtrade have returned good prices.
4. Lekkalate Clementine
One of the earlier developed of the late maturing easypeelers of which very few have been planted. This orchard was also established in the eighties and although it matures when supply is limited and price expectations are high the small volume creates logistical problems with packaging and marketing.
5. Delta Valencia
A cultivar developed in the late seventies and often in oversupply thus a commodity. It is a later maturing cultivar which tends to be alternate in bearing when nutrient levels are not optimum and inclined to bear small fruit but is seedless. Our Fairtrade accreditation on the other hand allows us good market access and reasonable returns.
6. Midknight Valencia
Also a late cultivar developed in the late seventies and is seedless. The only difference from the Delta is that it tends to have good fruit size. Most of this fruit is marketed as Fairtrade.
This is probably one of the better of the late maturing Valencia types and was discovered in the Sundays River Valley. What differentiates it from the other late Valencia types is that it peels easily; it’s not alternate bearing and produces good sized fruit. For the past three years attempts have been made to differentiate this cultivar in the market without success. Sun Orange is fortunate to be able to sell most of this fruit at good returns under the Fairtrade Label.
8. Eureka Lemon
This is the popular Lemon cultivar in our area due to good yield, high juice content and thin rind. It flowers more than once and thus allows harvesting to take place from end of March to August.
Cultivars Recently Established
1. Eureka Seedless Lemon
A variant from the Eureka Lemon, this cultivar is the only totally seedless cultivar available. It has similar characteristics to the old Eureka in this area. Volumes are undersupplied and good premiums are being achieved although as volumes increase a critical volume will be achieved when the market can be better supplied through easier logistics and more consistency of supply. This is a patented cultivar developed by the ARC and managed by Citrogold and the Grower Club Company.
Cirtogold is a company which acquires the management rights to cultivars, which are registered under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 15 of 1976 or under various other acts in other countries of cultivar origin, under contract with them. They levy the fruit sold to acquire an income and to pay the Plant Breeder or Patent Holder. The growers of the various cultivars or cultivar groupings are structured into a Grower Club Company (Pty) Ltd of which the growers are the shareholders. Through the grower club Citrogold and the growers manage the production volumes and the marketing of that cultivar to prevent overproduction and commoditization of the cultivar. They are focused on southern hemisphere production only. 56% of the trees planted at Sun Orange are patented cultivars and a further 22% are new but not patented cultivars.
2. Lane Late & Autumn Gold Navels
These cultivars were selected to extend the traditional southern hemisphere navel supply period. They have very good internal and eating quality. Autumn Gold is an Australian patented cultivar.
3. Fukumoto Navels
The Fukumoto Navel originated in Japan and is the earliest Navel cultivar with good internal quality, yield and a deep red colour. The earliness enables us to offer Navels into an empty market both locally and abroad resulting in a premium in the price.
4. Clemenpons Clementine
This is a patented cultivar which originated in Spain and is managed by Citrogold. This is one of the earliest Clementine cultivars and was included in the plantings to enable Sun Orange to enter the Clementine market before the large traditional Clementine volumes enter the market. First pickings commenced four weeks before Nules and we expect that as the trees mature they could be up to five weeks earlier. They have an exceptional internal and eating quality even at this young age and should improve over time.
5. Primasole Mandarin
The Primasole Mandarin is the earliest cultivar at Sun Orange and is a Clementine/Satsuma hybrid originating in Spain. It was selected for it’s resistance to blemish, good size and prolific production. The internal quality is mediocre but it should be profitable due to volume of exportable product more so than for price. It is also a patented cultivar managed by Citrogold.
6. Clemen Gold Mandarin (Nadorcott)
This is currently the most exciting cultivar at Sun Orange due to the increasing demand as volumes grow. Its origin is Morocco and it is a late maturing Mandarin type. It is an excellent producing cultivar with an outstanding flavour, colour and market timing resulting in very good premiums achieved. This is a patented cultivar managed by Citrogold and sold under the ‘Clemen Gold’ brand.
7. Clemen Or Mandarin (Or)
Originating from Israel, this cultivar is managed by Citrogold and patented. It is a late Mandarin as in the case of Clemen Gold but has one disadvantage over Clemen Gold in that it is difficult to set consistently good crops. The harvesting is later than Clemen Gold and it is marketed as a ‘Clemen Or’.
8. Cara Cara Navel
In terms of harvesting timing, external appearance, internal quality and yield the Cara Cara is very similar to the traditional Navel. It has however one interesting difference in that the colour of the flesh is a deep red similar to that of Star Ruby Grapefruit. This red colour gives it certain health benefits such as high levels of lycopene, beta carotene, antioxidants and free radical absorbents. This is a relatively new cultivar and its initial introduction to the market (poor quality scruffy fruit) created a resistance to the cultivar in the UK and Europe. New market development in China and other Far Eastern countries is proving positive. Promotions with displays of cut fruit are also proving to be beneficial.
9. Triumph Persimmon (Chinese Apple)
This cultivar is the flagship of all Persimmon cultivars available and was selected by an Israeli company May-Amy for commercialization under the Sharon Fruit brand name. Sharon Fruit is the leading Persimmon brand worldwide. This is an astringent Persimmon and only after the de-astringifying process was perfected could it be commercialized for export. Sweet Persimmons on the other hand become soft in a short space of time (short shelf life) and are not suited for export. Astringent Persimmons maintain a long shelf life, the fruit remains crisp and the flavour and sweetness is kept intact. Southern Hemisphere Persimmon production is limited and the Israelis have selected South Africa to complement their production in the counter season. It is a patented cultivar managed by Sharon Fruit of South Africa and Sharon Growers Group in a similar manner to Citrogold. Southern hemisphere prices are at a 30% premium to those of the northern hemisphere for Sharon Fruit. Persimmons can be harvested in the early mornings in the dew whereas citrus cannot.