SA’s deciduous fruits production to rise, success curtailed by export challenges  

SOUTH AFRICA – Production of fresh deciduous fruits i.e. apples, pears and table grapes in South Africa is projected to rise in the 2021/2022 Marketing Year (MY), due to rise in favourable weather conditions, new areas under production, and higher yielding cultivars.

However, rising shipping costs, an upsurge in input costs, local port inefficiencies and the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on established trading patterns, are challenging South Africa’s exports of pome fruit and table grapes.

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As a result, according to USDA in a GAIN report, profitability of the industry is under pressure which could limit future investments.

During the period under review, the country’s apple harvest could reach a historical high of 1.2 million metric tons (MMT), pushing MY 2020/21’s record production of an estimated 1.1 MMT to second place.

South Africa produced 991,252 metric tons (MT) of apples in MY 2019/20, according to the industry representative organization, Hortgro. This means that the past 3-years represents South Africa’s three largest apple crops on record.

Due to rise in production, domestic consumption of the fruit is forecast to grow by five percent to reach 535,000 MT.

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The upsurge in local consumption is mainly driven by heightened consumers awareness to enhance nutritional health and overall wellbeing, established by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apples contribute significantly to healthy dietary patterns and the increased demand for convenient snack foods.

With South Africa’s apples being famous in over 80 countries across the world, exports are set to grow by six percent to 625,000 MT.

Meanwhile, the country’s pear production is forecasted to grow by seven percent to reach a record level of 510,000 MT.

In MY 2020/21, post estimates South Africa produced 475,000 MT of pears, a growth of eight percent from the 438,468 MT produced in MY 2019/20.

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As with apples, the past 3-years represents South Africa’s three largest pear crops on record.

Domestic consumption of pears is also forecast to grow by seven percent in MY 2021/22 to reach 245,100 MT.

As the industry is mainly export orientated, the country’s pear exports will grow by five percent to 260,000 MT.

For table grapes, production is forecast to grow by four percent to a record 380,000 MT from previous season’s 364,063 MT.

Domestic consumption of table grapes is forecast to grow to 68,000 MT in the MY 2021/22 on higher production and export constraints.

The supply of table grapes to the domestic market and consequently consumption in South Africa is dependent on the supply to export markets.

Export volumes of the fruit during the period under review is expected to stay flat at about 320,000 MT.

Raising shipping costs, strengthening of the local currency, recent Covid-19 related restriction in China and inefficiencies at the Cape Town port, deterred a major upsurge in export on record production.

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