SA to take on Chile with tougher plum competition
South African growers could give Chilean plum exporters much stiffer competition in the next five years with the African Delight variety, according to Hortgro Services product manager Jacques du Preez.
Du Preez has told www.freshfruitportal.com growers don't want to overlap with Chilean producers at the moment but this could change in the future.
"You don't want to run into Chile volumes in the later part of the season or you will have to push them out of the season with volumes. In five years' time growth in African Delight will mean we will definitely give them more competition at that time of season in competing markets," he says.
"In total Chile still produces a lot more than us, but only half of their exports compete directly in our traditional markets. The U.S. of course being a big market to them and not for us."
He predicts production of the variety will increase by 759% over the next five years from 144 metric tons (MT) this season to 1,234MT in 2015/16.
"African Delight is still young here but it's been one of the fastest to cultivate. It's a self-pollinated cultivar, yields are expected to be good and there's a market for it. It's a later cultivar which expands your market window."
He says the fruit is popular because of its sweet taste despite having minimum sugar levels.
Du Preez adds that continental Europe and the U.K. are still the country's top export destinations, despite the recent U.S. decision to allow stonefruit into the country.
"In terms of big volumes I can't see it happening in the short-term. There's additional costs and additional risks and it all mounts up to the fact that we'd rather not got there, although if the price was right then perhaps we would do it."
He said this was mainly due to exacting protocols over cold treatments and irradiation, which is not required in the E.U.
Currently, in South Africa irradiation for pluots and plums is impossible because tests have not yet been approved.
"Commercially it will be very difficult, the requirements are quite strict and it will take a week longer to get the fruit there in sound condition versus Europe, the U.K. and the Far East."
However, he is upbeat about other markets, in particular the Middle East, which he said has become the largest market for importing peaches.
He said estimates for crops are pretty much on track and producers have started harvesting nectarines for the internal market already, with exports expected to begin in the next few weeks.
"At the moment there's nothing to be worried about. It's a temperate season and in terms of volume things are looking good. We are waiting in anticipation to see what the first plum season will be but so far so good."
Related story: Stonefruit season looking peachy for South Africa