In our March fresh produce market take we discuss prospects for another record South African citrus season, prospects for better market access in the current international world of Corona, progress with the grape variety, Joybells and the launch of a new branded apple variety.

The hopes for a new pear deal in China is discussed, and we look at what lies ahead for South African avocados.

South African table grape and stone fruit seasons just about over

South African table grape growers had a reasonable 2019-20 season, despite the fact that exports to China were disrupted as a result of the Coronavirus. With markets in other parts of the world relatively strong, it was easy to spread the fruit somewhere else. There is expectations that during the final weeks of harvesting the total export crop would end somewhere between 62 and 64 million cartons.

The South African stone fruit season is also now over – with the last late plums having been packed and shipped. By all accounts it was a mixed season – with plum volumes lower than expected but nectarines up on last year.

South African citrus industry expects record export season

Exports expected to rise above 140 million cartons this year

The South African citrus industry is forecasting another record export crop for 2020. The forecast comes at a time when the South African government has announced extreme measures to cope with the effects of Coronavirus (Covid 2019).

This harvest is expected to generate around R20 billion in export revenue and will sustain 120 000 jobs. The industry says this increase should translate into more job opportunities, higher foreign exchange revenue and will contribute towards the national government’s goal of increased agricultural exports over the next few years.

The Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) forecasts a rise of 13% compared with last year’s export figure – at 143,3 million cartons compared to last year’s 126,7 million cartons.

Hope of improved market access for South African fruit in balance

Coronavirus add to market access woes

Hope that South African citrus growers will get improved access to the United States now seems a long way off while Coronavirus and other trade issues dominate the scene.

Eat me, I am juicy and sweet!

While there are signs that trade in China will increasingly return to normal within the next month, it is not clear when a new protocol to give South African pears access to the country will be signed.
It is perhaps now not realistic to expect that the pear deal will be signed in time for the South Africans to take full advantage of during this season.

It is however the delay in the USA deal which shows that all cannot be attributed to Coronavirus only – there are much deeper problems which may not easily be dissolved even if things return to normal soon.

Joybells slowly finding its feet

After two years in the trade Joybells is slowly finding its feet in the market

The new South African bred red seedless table grape which was launched two years ago is slowly finding its feet in the country’s export portfolio. With significant volumes already exported this year, it is however clear that it is perhaps in South Africa’s traditional markets where it will find its place.
In an era where new seedless grape varieties from breeding programmes around the world abound, those backing the South African breeding programme has been hoping that the new variety, aptly named Joybells, will be a winner. It has now been exposed to international buyers for two years. It is becoming increasingly clear that it will do better in western markets rather than in the east.

“Joybells plantings increase significantly to 310 ha over the last three years,” says Dr Leon von Mollendorff of Culdevco, the company responsible for its commercialisation in South Africa. “We still believe that Joybells is a premium variety despite the increasing export volumes. Around 400 000 standard table grape cartons were exported the past season.”

New brand boost Gala category in South Africa

New branded full-red Gala strain to bring new positioning for South Africa in Gala apple category

As South African apple harvest gathers steam, the country has found a new full red branded Gala strain to move it to the high end of Gala market. Increased volumes of Bigbucks which has now been branded as FLASH GALA ™ will be available this year with markets in the East set to receive the giant share.

Calla du Toit, chairman of the Bigbucks Growers Association, who also is chairman of The Pink Lady Growers Association in South Africa, says as volumes of FLASH GALA ™ increases, South Africa will find itself at the top end of the Gala market. “We will now for the first time really be able to compete with other countries in the full red Gala category. We have always been known for producing apples with higher sugars and excellent taste. With the excellent full red colour of this apple we will dramatically improve our Gala offer.”

South African pear deal for China awaiting signature

Major breakthrough for South African pears in China as final signing of protocol is awaited

At various times in the past we have been writing about what was considered the imminent entry of South African pears into China. Now it seems that only events outside the pear orchards are delaying the final signing of the protocol between South Africa and China.

This time the delay is not due to any actions of the two trading partners, but rather the fact that the Coronavirus is not making it possible for the South African delegation to travel to China to enact what has been keenly awaited by all parties.

It is understood that the signing ceremony would have taken place in March, but has now been delayed. The South Africans, including all the other South African export industries who are standing in the queue to start negotiations with the Chinese authorities to also get access to this lucrative market, are hoping that this will be done soon.

Future growth in South African avocados confirmed in forecast

New crop will be substantially higher than last year

The first South African avocado forecast of the 2020 season serves as confirmation that the industry is in a strong period of growth.
This year’s crop will be somewhat short of the record 2018 season which saw exports hurtling past the 20-million carton mark. However, at 18,5 million cartons, it is the second biggest export crop in the history of avocado exports from South Africa.

It is also substantially higher than last year’s 14,3 million cartons. Avocados are known for their off and on years and last year was one of those off-years. This 2020 harvest shows that the 2018 mark of 21-million cartons was merely a hint of what is to come.