South Africa: big volume and delays for stonefruit

Featured Top Stories Top Stories
South Africa: big volume and delays for stonefruit

Hortgro agricultural economic information manager Mariette Kotzé says record South African stonefruit volumes are expected this year despite cold weather delays.

“At this stage the season is about 10-to-14 days later than the previous season. So you will see that all of our exports to date are considerably down compared to last year at the same time," she told

"If you look at the export estimate, we are still expecting a record crop again for all of them,” she said.

Apricots and peaches are estimated at 1.3 million cartons each, representing 3% and 15% increases respectively. Nectarines sit at 3.7 million, a 7% increase. Plums come in at just over 10 million, a 5% increase.

Cold weather conditions have been a mixed blessing for South Africa’s stonefruit. Sufficient winter cold units will mean good total volume and size by the season’s end. A chilly spring, however, will also force the country out of peak export windows.

“Normally we move the largest part of nectarines, peaches and apricots before Christmas because prices are just a little bit better and the market is empty. But with the later season, there would be a larger portion that would be marketed after Christmas,” Kotzé explained.

The post-Christmas window means competition, especially in Europe, from Chile and Argentina.

Even with such barriers, Kotzé said exporters would do their best to reach foreign markets.

“We need to export the fruit. The domestic market cannot absorb all of it, so it cannot be diverted into the domestic market. A balance needs to be struck. As some point it’s just not profitable to export anymore but you should also not flood the local market.”

She assured the delays had not resulted from recent farm labor strikes and attributed the late season mostly to weather conditions.

“At this stage, the impact [of strikes] has been minimal on the crop itself. There have been isolated cases of people reporting they could not harvest a specific day or two but that does not necessarily affect your whole crop,” she said.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of exporters and we had a stone fruit market meeting yesterday. We specifically asked them, were there any losses? Were any of them not able to get product out? There were no major issues though.”

The bigger struggle now will be maintaining buyer confidence in the South African market. She said so far, importers have been kept at ease and no immediate impact can be seen.

Subscribe to our newsletter