The Russian embargo on apples and pears has taken its toll on the Limburg pip fruit sector, which lost 40% of its market in one fell swoop, while also coming up against stronger competition from other European Member States like Poland. The adverse weather conditions of the past four years have not helped either. The 2019 season saw poor pricing for apples and pears, with a 51% fall in apple prices and 43% drop in pear prices.
The region’s pip fruit sector has not stood still however. Two years ago, fourteen actors signed the ‘Flemish strategy for the pip fruit sector’, an action plan that focuses on profitability, quality and research and contains nineteen action points. Unfortunately, the implementation of this action plan has been difficult, not least due to a lack of consensus between the various partners. The sector is now calling for government action to assess what support measures have been given by the EU to the Limburg pip fruit growers since the Russian embargo and how pricing has been affected.
A severe drought is currently affecting South Africa’s Western Cape region, which accounts for around 80% of the country’s apple and pear production. The lack of winter rainfall in 2017 and the low dam levels (about 20%) will lead to a shortfall of irrigation water in the 2017/18 MY by as much as 60% and an inevitable loss of fruit production. Indeed, apple production is expected to fall by 11% to 800,000 tons. Besides the drought, these lower volumes are also due to a contraction in production area and fruit damage caused by hail, windstorms and severe sunburn. With lower fruit quality, apple exports are expected to drop by 12% to 485,000 tons. Likewise, pear production in 2017/18 is predicted to be 7% lower (400,000 tons) and exports are expected to fall by 10% to 240,000 MT.
New Zealand’s horticultural exports are forecast to grow by 4.2% in 2018 with the continued expansion of the country’s kiwifruit production area and generally favourable weather conditions for pipfruit and wine production. New varieties are forecast to be an important driver of growth in the coming years. Such varieties, including gold kiwifruit and jazz and envy apples, have contributed greatly to the success of the sector. An increase in apple and pear production is expected in 2018, due to favourable growing conditions and young trees maturing. Avocados are now being shipped to China after years of negotiations regarding access conditions. China is the world’s fifth largest importer of avocados with rapid growth in the past five years. Kiwifruit exports are forecast to increase 4.5% to NZ$1.8 billion for the year ending June 2018. Production is set to expand with increased plantings of gold varieties expected over the next few years.
The picture isn’t entirely rosy however as there is a shortage of skilled labour across the industry. Moreover, apple and pear exporters will need to continue developing new varieties and expand into higher-paying markets in order to ensure continued export growth in future years.