In this edition of Fredo’s Fresh Produce bulletin we report on the latest export projections for citrus, apples and pears from South Africa. We also wrap on the table grape season. We also look at the effect on Covid-19 on two international fresh produce events.

Fredo’s Fresh Bulletin keeps a close eye on the world of fresh produce as reported in the international media – particularly those event of interest to the South African fresh produce sector.

1          Quick look at fresh produce export forecast

Exports of citrus have now past the 11-million carton mark – with some distance to go to the record 143,9 million carton crop being forecasted. So far 7 million cartons of lemons, 2 million cartons of soft citrus and 2,1 million cartons of grape fruit have been shipped.

There has so far been strong demand for particularly lemons, as the whole citrus category experience good demand. First shipments to Japan and China, are on the water.

Table grapes

South Africa’s table grape export shipments fell just short of the record volume of 2016-17. The finale figures will be released soon by the table grape industry, but is expected to be around 66 million cartons, just one million short of the previous record. Growers report strong early and mid-season demand, extending into the late season.

Apples and pears

As the last of the season’s apples, Pink Lady and Cripps Pink, are being harvested, the apple and pear growers are in a delicate and unpredictable part of the season. The latest prediction for apples this season is 35,791 million cartons, compared to last year’s 33,871 million cartons. This is 6 % more than last season. The pear forecast is slightly less than the export figure for last year.


The avocado forecast has been reduced by 2 million cartons – down to 16 million cartons. This is due to the effect of Covid-19, which affecting the hospitality and restaurant business in the major marketing regions. The season is now moving into its peak in Europe with the first Peruvian arrivals expected.

2          Changes to international fresh produce events calendar

Two fresh produce events have been rescheduled as a result of the international Covid-19 crisis.

Asia Fruit Logistica and Asiafruit Congress

Asia Fruit Logistica has been rescheduled to November – from 18 to 20 November – and will be held in Singapore. The event is being rescheduled at the International Singapore Expo and this is done according to the organisers to allow exhibitors and attendees to plan properly and get the most out of the event.

Will Winhold, commercial director of Global Produce Events, the organisers of Asia Fruit Logistica, says the organisers want the global fresh fruit and vegetable business to re-connect at the event after the disruption of Covid-19.

Fruit Logistica was moved from Hong Kong to Singapore this year due to the civil unrest and economic decline in Hong Kong due to last year’s unrest in the city. Singapore was also the venue for the first ever Asiafruit Congress in 1998. This year Asiafruit Congress will be also be held, as a one day event on Tuesday, 17 November, at the Singapore Expo.

Global Berry Congress will now take place in December

Chris White, Managing Director FRUITNET MEDIA INTERNATIONAL GMBH, has announced that the GLOBAL BERRY CONGRESS 2020 will now take place from 7-9 December 2020.

“This move is intended to give the global berry business as long as possible this year to deal with the impact of COVID-19 crisis and for it to come together ahead of the new marketing campaign that starts in the new year,” he says.

“We are confident that in six months’ time GLOBAL BERRY CONGRESS can provide a moment for berry businesses both to share best practice on some of the lessons learned from the current coronavirus crisis and, crucially, to prepare for the sales and marketing campaigns from January 2021.

“The gradual release from lockdown now underway in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe as well as significant travel restrictions that are in place all over the world make it impossible to hold to our current dates for GLOBAL BERRY CONGRESS at the end of June. However, we will organise a 2/3 hour berry business briefing session online on 23 June hosted by Mike Knowles to discuss the current state of the business, and will share more details very soon.”

“None of us can have known the impact of this global pandemic when GLOBAL BERRY CONGRESS was postponed in March. Our primary concern remains for the health and well-being of everyone who attends GLOBAL BERRY CONGRESS. We believe that these news dates of 7-9 December 2020 are in the very best interests of every delegate, speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor at GLOBAL BERRY CONGRESS and, of course, all our staff and suppliers.”

3          Fruitnet reports on Container boost for South Africa

Further deliveries of empty containers to Cape Town will boost the country’s fruit exports

Exporters and logistics operators in South Africa’s Western Cape are eagerly awaiting the arrival of another shipload of empty containers to boost their export programmes. Following the previous arrival of empty containers delivered by Maersk, the MSC container vessel VITA is expected in Cape Town this week (7 May 2020) to deliver containers destined for exporters in the Western Cape.

In the Cape region the last of the apples are being harvested this week, while the Western Cape citrus industry is at the start of its export programme.

In the north of the country the citrus season is fast gaining momentum and, sources said, against the prospects of a record export crop, they were keen not to fall behind in shipments. Another reason is the fact that internationally there is now good demand for citrus because of the focus of increased intake to build up immunity and therefore help cope with the Covid-19 virus threat.

The need to take advantage of a very favourable exchange rate is also driving increased interest in the export business. Gerhard van Heerden, chief executive of LINK, a shipping and logistics operator of a number of leading export companies, said that the arrival of the MSC VITA was keenly awaited.

“It is expected to make a huge difference in the much needed demand for empty containers,” he confirmed.

4          Plan to boost black citrus growers in South Africa

The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) has that a R307 million Economic Transformation of Black Citrus Growers Programme has been launched to boost the participation of black growers in the citrus export business.

The CGA says the programme is expected to create an additional 1 726 permanent and seasonal jobs in the citrus industry.

The Jobs Fund has committed R118 million to the project, with the Land Bank agreeing to contribute an additional R116 million in loan funding. The CGA has contributed R24 million, while the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries and AGRISETA have pledged R34 million and R12 million respectively.

The CGA says to qualify for funding growers have to have a minimum of 60% black ownership (of both assets and operations) as defined by the B-BBEE Act of 2013, while priority will be given to enterprises with 100% black ownership. Other criteria that need to be met include: producing or packing citrus that is exported, having appropriate management structures, relationships with external service providers (financial auditors, legal services, logistics, fruit exports etc.), human resource development plans, security of land tenure and sufficient water supply.

“Most importantly, applicants must also demonstrate that they will create permanent and seasonal job opportunities with the development funding.

5          South African citrus export season to United States gets underway

First containers on the water but first conventional vessels only expected in late June

The first South African containers of citrus fruit for the 2020 season have been shipped to the United States. Exporters say that with a good crop and growth in the late mandarin sector they are confident of a good season. “We have had excellent growing conditions with enough water to set the crop,” says veteran grower and marketer, Piet Smit, who was also a previous Chairperson of Summer Citrus from South Africa.

Summer Citrus from South Africa is the umbrella under which exporters and growers in the Cape have been united for more than two decades to build their US citrus campaign. It was started early in 2000 with leading figures, Piet Smit, Hannes de Waal and the late Gerrit van der Merwe.

It combines the efforts of the export industry to promote Summer Citrus from South Africa, but most importantly also coordinating shipping to ensure regular fresh arrivals throughout the season while promoting healthy competition between exporters and receivers in the USA.

6          Lock-down in South Africa boost pineapple sales

Magic of a different kind in the skins of the pineapple

While increased intake of fresh fruit and vegetables are reported from around the world as people look for the best ways to build immunity against Covid-19, there are also other reasons why some fruits are experiencing a boom.

In South Africa the lock-down has meant that all liquor outlets have been closed and the movement of all forms of liquor banned. Not to be deter by the shortages of their favourite drinks, some South Africans have gone back to old recipes to make their own drinks.

In the northern country areas and the Karoo those who still brew a very strong drink they call ‘Witblitz’ or in English ‘White Lightening’, all from fruit the old-timers are opening up their cellars to quench the thirst.

More popular however is the making of beers from all kinds of fruit.

Errol Morgan of Execufruit at Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market told Eurofruit this week that the price of pineapples has gone through the roof. “It is not because of the health-giving quality of the fruit – they pay more than R220.00 per carton simply to make pineapple beer. It is all in the skin which is the key ingredient you need.”

Pineapple Beer is a South-African traditional recipe. People often recall that their parents and grandparents made this regularly. Others say their parents used various grains to do the same.

One blogger recalls that she has been making pineapple beer from a young age. Whenever she managed to salvage some pineapple peels before it went to the compost heap, she would drop it in a bowl with some water and sugar and let it stand. A few days later she had some sweet, pineapple flavoured water with a few bubbles.

She says there was a need to refine things somewhat. She had to improve the flavour and taste – just like good fruit tree breeders would do. But there had to be a bit more buzz from the brew.