Mixed response from SA growers to U.S. stonefruit potential
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced South African apricots, cherries and plumcots could potentially be given market entry approval if they meet phytosanitary standards, but exporters would prefer other products be given higher priority.
Franschoek Fruit Packers marketing manager Jan Hoon has told www.freshfruitportal.com the USDA's announcement is largely positive, but others in the industry have been sceptical of its significance.
"This is very positive for us, it gives us quite a few opportunities. I think at the moment there are some issues logistically as we’d have to do treatment with radiation but we’re looking to get through that," says Hoon.
"It’ll start with small volumes but we do see small opportunities. It’s definitely a step in the right direction."
Seaboard International trader Derek Chicken says the decision could help some growers, but South Africa's industry would likely prefer to have an ease in phytosanitary controls in the U.S. for its citrus fruits.
"I’d like to see them reform their phytosanitary controls on oranges and lemons, because that’s where you’ve got the volumes. For some growers this decision could be good but I don’t know how competitive they would be," he says.
"The U.S. has stringent controls and require cold sterilization treatment, and we're not very competitive with stonefruit in South Africa - our plumcot production would be very small I would think, we’re not really a cherry producing country. There are some small growers doing it but it's not a great deal.
"And we’re not a large apricot producer either, it's typical U.S. 'Let's let something in that doesn't matter'."
Fruit company Vanguard International has its headquarters in Washington state with an African arm headed up by Henk Wever, who tells www.freshfruitportal.com long transfer times, heavy phytosanitary controls and the sensitivity of stonefruit would be the biggest hurdles in capturing a new U.S. export market.
"I can tell you apricots have got a good three-and-a-half weeks to get there. South Africa exports apricots to the Middle East which is about 11 days, and they are a very sensitive product," he says.
"My first response would be that sending apricots to the U.S. would be too sensitive, and South Africa doesn’t really have the sizes of apricots needed for the U.S. market which is looking for those bigger sizes.
"I’m not really excited. I don't know whether it would be economically viable."
Wever says the opening up of U.S. markets could show promise for new pluot varieties currently in development in South Africa, but it would only be a niche opportunity.
"I know there's one grower that has a flavorful pluot, which I'd assume would come under the plumcot category, and it's got good legs, good size, it's sweeter, so that could be one to give it a go," he says.
Related story: SA stonefruit make U.S. headway
Photo: Toronto Life