The fruits, mostly grapefruit and lemons, are the first to be exported this year to the two Asian countries since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, the ministry said.
According to the ministry, 2019 was a historical year as the South African citrus industry marked its maiden break-bulk shipment of citrus through a specialised reefer vessel to Japan and China.
“The expected date of arrival of the grape fruit and lemons in Japan is 18 May 2020 while for China it is 26 May 2020,’ the office said.
Loading of the vessel, which started on 25 April 2020 in Durban under thorough inspections, concluded on Thursday, it added.
“The fruit harvesting, sorting, washing, transportation, inspection, loading and related aspects was conducted by essential workers during the lockdown,” the ministry said.
The citrus industry is one of South Africa's main exporters, earning the country about US$1.2 billion in foreign currency annually and employing more than 160,000 workers.
South Africa exports two million tonnes of citrus annually, making it the second highest global exporter of citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit.