Many of the citrus fruits available in German supermarkets are produced in South Africa under massive labour rights violations, as revealed by a new study published by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung together with the Khanyisa Educational Development Trust.

The report can be downloaded via the Read More button below.


Every year between June and October, oranges, lemons, and tangerines from South Africa fill supermarket shelves in Germany and other countries in Europe. With an export volume of 80,400 tonnes in 2020, South Africa is the second-most important supplier of citrus fruits to the German market after Spain. The study Bitter Oranges takes a closer look at the living and working conditions on five farms in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The farms produce for packing houses, which in turn supply German supermarket conglomerates such as Edeka, Rewe, and Lidl.

Market power within the supply chain is extremely unevenly distributed, as expressed in the problematic trade practices pursued by German supermarket corporations. Lidl, Rewe, and others pressure suppliers through short-term supply contracts and renegotiating prices to their own advantage. In addition, price margins are unevenly distributed along the supply chain. Of the almost €2 / R36* that a kilogram of oranges costs in German supermarkets, about €0.60 / R11* remain at the retail level in Germany. The gross margin of the South African producer is €0.45 / R8* Cents, less than a quarter of the final price. The share that the permanent, year-round South African farm workers receive is the equivalent of just € 0.06 / R1*.

Moreover, massive labour rights violations were found on the five citrus farms situated in the Gamtoos Valley of the Eastern Cape surveyed—lack of access to drinking water, acute pesticide poisoning, and harassment of trade union representatives are the rule rather than the exception. The conditions on the farms Nuwelande, Mimosa and Hillside are particularly problematic.

Bitter Oranges is published by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung and the Khanyisa Educational Development Trust.

Author: Benjamin Luig works on agricultural policy issues and lives in Berlin. From 2016 to 2019 he led the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung’s Food Sovereignty Dialogue Programme in Johannesburg, South Africa.
*EUR-ZAR exchange rate calculated at 1 : 17.8756 on 23.08.2021; rates provided by
Article Thumbnail