SOUTH AFRICA – After a battle of the oranges in the European market, South African apples and pears have stepped in to save the day, thanks to India which has approved the fruits’ in-transit cold treatment for exports to India.

The move will allow the fruits to arrive at the destination country in better quality, allowing shippers to increase the length of the season and consumers to get fresher fruit.

Speaking about the development, Jacques du Preez, Hortgro’s General Manager for Trade and Markets, said, “We welcome the Government of India’s decision as it allows us to ship quality fruit from South Africa to India in a short span of time. We would like to thank the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the South African High Commission team in India.

“With the in-transit cold treatment procedure, I believe the suppliers and the Indian importers both stand to benefit as the transit time reduces considerably. South African apples and pears have received a phenomenal response from Indian consumers, and we believe that the volume will rise significantly due to this announcement,” he added.

Hortgro has intensified its marketing in India in 2021, increasing exports threefold year-on-year for apples and almost doubling pear exports.

”Last season was the first time we tested the waters with our market development programme,” Du Preez said, adding that interest and participation from importers had exceeded Hortgro expectations.

Hortgro’s India campaign comprised a range of marketing activities, targeting key stakeholders to boost awareness of South African apples and pears under the slogan ‘Beautiful Fruits from the Beautiful Country’.

Hortgro’s India representative Sachin Khurana said there had been “a lot of interest and enthusiasm from large importers and retailers from India in the business possibilities that South African produce brings.”

Apples and pear market

As per industry estimates, sales of South African apples in India increased from 1,83,000 cartons in 2020 to 7,68,900 cartons in 2021.

Since the beginning of 2022, South Africa has exported more than 2.5 million boxes of apples and pears to India, and the demand is increasing year on year, according to Hortgro. Hortgro is the representative body for the South African deciduous fruit industry.

Apple varieties such as Royal Gala, Bigbucks, and Top Red have remained favourites, while for pears, Packhams, Vermont Beauty, and Forelle have ruled over consumer palettes.

In December last year, South Africa and China signed the protocol of phytosanitary requirements for the export of local fresh pears to China.

According to the protocol, all fresh pear fruit to be exported from South Africa to China will have to meet all agreed and applicable phytosanitary requirements, as well as all food safety rules and health standards as defined by General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC).

The fruit must also be free of the quarantine pests of concern to China as listed in the protocol. Pear orchards, pack houses and cold storage facilities wishing to export their fruit to China must be registered with and approved by both the GACC and DALRRD.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) said the initial request for market access of fresh pear started simultaneously with that of apples in 2008.

India and China opening their markets for South African fruits is a relief for the country’s exporters who have experienced hitches in accessing the European market.

According to Randolf Aaldijk, Director of Origin Fruit Direct, a Dutch company that has been importing fruit for the European market from a large South African grower since 2006, the market presents issues around logistical problems, sustainability requirements, product specifications, cost increases, preference for local production, and low sales prices.

The EU recently instituted new cold treatment requirements for all oranges destined for European tables.

The oranges are to be subjected to extreme cold treatment and kept at temperatures of two degrees Celsius or less for 25 days, which South African growers say is not necessary as the country already has more targeted means of preventing the infestation.

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