In January last year the fruit growers of a large part of the Ceres fruit region were struggling to come to terms with the devastating results of hail which almost totally destroyed their crops. Now, with the new fruit season in the area starting growers are looking forward to a better year.

It proves the point of the old saying in the fruit industry that ‘once the blossoms on the threes are out there is new hope’.

In the areas most affected last year, growers are looking forward to a good crop this year.

_MAT7144-1Well-known Ceres fruit and vegetable grower, Rossouw Cillié of Laastedrif Farming group, is one of those growers who escaped the hail damage last year. But he nevertheless understands the pain which his fellow growers had gone through. “We are used to hail and last year we were just fortunate. We had an excellent year,” he says.

In fact, his year could probably not have been better. Apart from being named South Africa’s Farmer of the Year in 2013, he was recently awarded the Freshmark Supplier of the Year prize for 2014. Freshmark is the fruit and vegetable procurement and distribution arm for Shoprite Checkers Group, one of South Africa’s leading supermarkets. Laastedrif Farming started supplying fresh fruit and vegetables to Freshmark in 2007.

“We supply our apples and pears to Freshmark via Tru-Cape, but supply Freshmark directly with a range of vegetables and stone fruit,” he explains. Laastedrif Farming is located in the Swaarmoed area of the Ceres region. Rossouw explains that the orchards are located in different climatic conditions, which enables Laastedrif to produce a range of fruit and vegetables. “In the higher areas we grow apples and further down the slope of the mountain stonefruit and vegetables.”

1In the fruit industry accolades do not come easily and Rossouw says one always needs to be humble. He is therefore also confident that his fellow growers in Ceres who suffered last year will make a good comeback this year. “It is the nature of the fruit business. When you receive this type of recognition it means that you are doing something right and for me and my staff this is very encouraging,” he said.

In terms of apples and pears, the South African market is a most important player in the lives of the countries fruit growers. With the latest opening up of opportunities for apples in Africa, more than 50% of South Africa’s total production of apples is now being marketed inside Africa. This is vastly different from table grapes, were more than 90% of the grapes are exported.

“Good crops we will most probably have,” says Mr Cillié. “But it is extremely early in the season and we will have to see how market conditions are. It is a long season and we will only know much later what 2015 will yield for us.”