SOUTH AFRICA – Cherry farms in the Western Cape farms have bloomed due to the ability to use about half of the water required per hectare to irrigate than apples, which is important in the drought-stricken Cape.

Cherries are less thirsty than apples‚ and are proving to be popular with markets overseas- helping our under-pressure agricultural economy.

The primary market for locally produced cherries is the UK‚ with Hong Kong‚ the Netherlands and Malaysia forming the remainder of the top four export markets‚ Provincial Economic Opportunities Minister Alan Winde said on Monday.

“Once a very small crop in the Western Cape‚ cherries have more than quadrupled their export market share over the last four years‚ and continue to show excellent potential as an alternative crop‚” he said.

The Western Cape government has to date invested nearly R7m in the development of alternative crops such as berries‚ cherries‚ fynbos‚ pomegranates and honeybush.

These are smaller‚ export-oriented crops with high market-value‚ and greater potential for job creation‚ the province believes.

Cherries use about half of the water required per hectare to irrigate than apples.

The export value of cherries from SA has increased exponentially: total exports of the fruit in 2012 were valued at US$219,310 and reached US$2.36 in 2016.

Similar growth trends are being seen in fresh berry exports‚ which grew in value from US$126,435 in 2004‚ to US$6.7 million in 2013.

“As we continue to be faced with the reality of climate change‚ it’s important that our agricultural industry adapts and diversifies.

These kinds of alternative crops allow farmers to diversify their offerings‚ and present new and untapped export markets for the province,” he added.

“The research fund specifically supports crops that have the potential to create jobs‚ are economically viable‚ more sustainable and which will lead to increased exports.

Cherries are also a lower water use crop‚ which is important in our current and future context‚” he said.

“Hong Kong and the UK are both in the top 10 importers of cherries worldwide‚ so having a foot in the door in these important markets means that there is potential for growth‚” Winde said.