South African stonefruit volumes 'promising'

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South African stonefruit volumes 'promising'

South African stonefruit growers will have to thin harder than normal to get the right sized fruit in what looks set to be a bumper crop again this season, according to one of the country's larger producers.

Capespan technical manager Michiel Bester, described the season as "promising" with volumes expected to match and probably exceed last season's.

"Producers are going to have to thin very hard to make sure they have the right size for the market.

"Otherwise if we land a lot of small fruit we will not make any money. There is still no doubt about Europe being in a recession so there's no hope of getting huge prices.

"If the crop is a little bigger the only thing you can do is to make sure the size of the fruit is right. Small fruit won't get good prices. "

He said Capespan planned to increase its peach exports by at least 20% this season to meet a demand in the marker for new varieties.

"The existing varieties which we had were not what the market wanted - they were dull in color and the taste was not that good. Now we have better eating qualities and blush levels. The new varieties have towards 80% blush."

He added the brix levels of new varieties such as SunWorld's Ambercrest were also around 2% higher depending on the growing region.

Europe would still take the lion's share of exports at around 80% with the Middle East 20% with the Far East, Africa and the Ocean Islands mopping up the remaining 20%.

Bester said Capespan would be sticking to the same nectarine export volumes this season despite more new nectarine orchards coming on stream for production.

However, Stems Fruit commercial manager Ryan Powter, said they would probably match or exceed last year's nectarine volumes especially for white flesh fruit.

"White flesh is more popular than yellow, it's seen as a premium nectarine. There's a good market for it especially in the Far East. They will not take yellow flesh nectarines. They don’t like the color to be too dark.

Powter said it was up to the industry to realize what the market wants.

"As varieties change there are some different opportunities. The Far East love big white flesh nectarines. The biggest problem is to get the size. The U.K. loves white flesh fruit too but prefer a medium size (23s). In the Middle East they don’t make the differentiation between white and yellow flesh."

Hortgro information manager Nando Baard, said the season looked like it was shaping up well despite starting 10 days later due to cold wet weather.

"Everyone is pretty confident that it will be a big harvest, at least the same as last year, may be a little bigger."

Related stories: SA stonefruit posted higher exports but prices stayed flat

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