South Africa's Fresh Connections to look at innovation, new markets

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South Africa's Fresh Connections to look at innovation, new markets

Capitalizing on the Asian market and tapping into the potential of gift fruit will be some of the hot topics at the Produce Marketing Association's (PMA) Fresh Connections: Southern Africa event next week.

McLarty Associates food and agricultural sector director Eric Trachtenberg, told he would be urging South African growers to focus on producing premium fruit.

"One thing I would encourage exporters to get into is the gift fruit market which really has large appeal. At present in Japan you get very high value for your product."

Trachtenberg added the retail landscape of China was evolving as fruit sales extended into supermarkets.

"They are changing from open market to modern retail markets; they are rapidly developing cold chain infrastructure and distribution is changing.

"Traditionally it was fragmented and hard to move things around. Now it's more efficient."

However, he described China's new efficiency as a "double-edged sword" as the Chinese have become better at exporting, particularly with apples, pears and fruit juice to Thailand, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Russia.

"It's a mixed bag, their quality and production is increasing. They are becoming one of the world's largest exporters. They produce 43% of the world's apples."

Trachtenberg emphasized China was a great export market for grapes, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit and cherries, rather than for pome fruit.

Fresh Produce Exporters' Forum (FPEF) chief executive and PMA South Africa Country Council member Anton Kruger, said Asia was an important growth market but stressed more work needed to be done at a government level.

"The development of some potential new markets however, needs more Government involvement in terms of bi-lateral agreements, reduction of import duties and tariffs."

He said neighboring African countries were also offering significant export growth opportunities and that this would form one of the panel debates at the conference.

"South Africa is utilizing its knowledge of, and proximity to the African market increasingly and thus about a quarter of our apples are now being exported to African countries."

South Africa exports 2.5 million metric tons of fruit annually at a value of €1.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) a year. It is the second-largest exporter of citrus in the world with this category representing 65% of exports, followed by pome fruit at 20%, grapes (10%), stonefruit (3%) and sub-tropical (2%).

Other topics to be discussed will include global sourcing, which Kruger said had led to changes in the way some exporters operate.

"The fact that multi-national retailers procure fruit from South Africa has led to the fact that some exporters have acquired production units in the Northern Hemisphere in order to be able to provide the retailer with a specific fruit kind 365 days per year -  thus balancing the counter-seasonality."

Europe accounts for 34% of South Africa's markets, followed by the Middle East at 19%, the Far East at 16%, the U.K at 15%, Russia at 9%, the U.S. at 5% and other African countries at 4%.

A range of different speakers covering factors affecting agriculture over the next decade, food security, research and innovation in post-harvest techniques, finance and marketing will feature at the event.

Delegates from around the world will be turning up for Fresh Connections: Southern Africa held at the University of Pretoria, Aug. 22-23. Click here to see the agenda.

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