South Africa is expecting record export crops this season for nectarines, peaches and plums thanks to good weather and additional plantings, but the EU market situation could pose some serious challenges.
Hortgro expects nectarine exports will see the biggest year-on-year export growth of around 15%, reaching 3.4 million cartons, while peach and plum shipments will both shoot up by around 10%, at 1.7 million and 11.5 million cartons respectively.
A slight drop of 1% is expected for apricot export volumes to some 960,000 cartons, which is attributed to a decline in production land.
Hortgro information manager Mariette Kotze told www.freshfruitportal.com the two main reasons for such substantial growth were a steadily increasing growing acerage in the country and the absence of any major climatic issues.
“We didn’t have such large volumes last year and so because of that the trees were covered well this season. Also, although we didn’t really have a very cold winter, the conditions were conducive for proper fruit set,” she said.
“We did experience a little bit of hail and a bit of ice rain in basically all our production areas, but it was very individual – there was no severe damage to the industry crop, and it happened at quite an early stage, before people had started to thin, so the impact wasn’t as severe.
“So if all remains as it currently is, then we will have a good export crop.”
Kotze said the stonefruit season was getting underway seven to 10 days earlier than last year, with limited volumes of early nectarine varieties from northern production regions having already been exported to the U.K. via airfreight.
“I think about 50,000 cartons have already been exported. There weren’t any quality issues – no size issues, no sugar issues or anything – so at this stage the quality is good,” she said.
Peach shipments have also got underway with volumes expected to pick up very soon, while apricot exports that would usually start in week 45 will now begin in small quantities from next week.
The first plum shipments are due to leave the country in about three weeks’ time.
No change in market split
Unfortunately for South African stonefruit exporters, the EU market situation is not as positive as crop estimates, with Russia’s import ban creating oversupply issues.
“We are anticipating stronger competition not only between the stonefruit category from other countries, but also from other fruit kinds due to the increase availability,” Kotze explained.
She added she didn’t believe exporters would divert their shipments to other markets on a large-scale, and a relatively similar market split to last year was expected.
South African peach and nectarine production stood at 181,000 metric tons (MT) in 2013, growing by 2.8 % year-on-year between 2008 and 2013, according to a report by the National Agricultural Marketing Council.
The report added the country’s apricot production stood at 60,000MT in 2013, with an increase of 20% from 2008.
For more information on what’s been happening with Russia’s import ban, click here.