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South African stone fruit sector battles through sustained drought

South African stone fruit sector battles through sustained drought

As South Africa’s farmers continue to battle the sustained drought the country has undergone in recent years, Hortgro, the organisation which represents South Africa’s stone and top fruit industries, has been supporting producers and agricultural workers to manage their product during the harvesting season. Hortgro Science provides research-based information to enhance the quality of South African stone and top fruit. Growers reportedly receive regular notes and technical updates from Hortgro Science, highlighting the primary fruit quality aspects to be adhered to during heat waves. The organisation works in collaboration with the Canning Fruit Producers’ Association, Agri Western Cape, Agri SA and Wine TU to help producers financially to through the rest of the production season and contain risks to crops. Hortgro delivered 1,000 food parcels to affected farmworkers in the Ladismith area and held a ‘resilience workshop’ to empower them mentally with coping strategies at the end of 2019.

The good news is that the drought has broken in some areas, like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. This means that Hortgro is optimistic that volumes will continue to increase throughout the season. Jacques du Preez, general manager trade and markets at Hortgro, said: “We are projecting an increase of 21% for nectarines compared to last season’s volumes, an increase of 14% for peaches and a 10% increase for plums. The continued droughts in some areas have, of course, impacted on the 2019/20 season’s full potential, but volumes and quality have certainly improved compared to last year.”

 

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South African stone fruit exports down

South African stone fruit exports down

The latest estimate for South Africa’s exports in the 2018-19 campaign are for an 11% fall for apricots, a 3% drop for peaches, and a 3% increase for both nectarines and plums. Despite the lower volumes, South Africa’s stonefruit exporters are optimistic about market conditions for their exports in the EU this winter.  The slightly later South African stonefruit crop has coincided with a shorter Italian plum season, particularly Angelina plums. The market should be empty by the time the bulk of South Africa’s fruit arrives, ensuring there is no oversupply. The largest volumes are expected from January onwards.

Plum exports are down due to damage to early varieties caused by a heatwave. The drop in apricot volumes is due to the shrinkage in planted area in recent years combined with an extended drought in some growing areas.