By Mwangi Githathu T

Cape Town – The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has been a boon for South African growers of mandarins and oranges who have doubled their exports because of the belief in the West that Vitamin C can help ward off colds and flu, according to Citrus Growers Association chief executive Justin Chadwick.

This despite there being no medical evidence that eating oranges can treat Covid-19.

In fact, a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) said: “Micro-nutrients such as Vitamins D and C and zinc are critical for a well-functioning immune system and play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well-being. However, there is currently no guidance on the use of micro-nutrient supplements as a treatment for Covid-19.”

Chadwick said: “Covid-19 has been very beneficial to our growers because of the belief, especially in Europe and North America, that Vitamin C may counter viral infections such as colds and flu.

“In 2018 our exports to Europe were 109 000 tons. Now as a result of the pandemic and everyone wanting oranges for their Vitamin C, we have increased our exports there by 68 000 tons to 177 000 tons. In the US between 2016 and 2018 we were selling 11000 tons, but this year the number has shot up to 30000 tons, more than double,” said Chadwick.

“Those two markets have been really good for us. Exports to the Middle East have also shown some increase, but it is only in Asia, and specifically China, that we have not sold much.

“They obviously don’t believe in the powers of Vitamin C from fruits as much as Europeans and North Americans do. While we are pleased that our soft citrus products have leant themselves to the times and are earning well for us, the big question is will it hold, or is it just a boon while Covid-19 is with us?”

Agricultural Business Chamber chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said: “South Africa is not doing badly at all. The country is the third-largest exporter of oranges in the world in volume terms, and second in value.”

Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer said: “Eight of the top 10 export products from the province are either essential agricultural commodities such as deciduous fruit, citrus and table grapes or value-added products such as wine.”

A dietitian at the Brackengate Hospital of Hope Darinka Theron said: “Good nutrition helps us fight many illnesses, including Covid-19. Immunity mainly starts in a person’s gut.

“To keep your gut bacteria healthy, you should eat less sugar, including sugary foods and drinks, bad fats and processed or red meat, and eat more whole, unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables.”

Cape Argus

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