South Africa: strong growth for Williams and Cripps Pink in 2013

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South Africa: strong growth for Williams and Cripps Pink in 2013

Strikes led to some minor issues at the start of South Africa's pear season this year, but thanks to a few "logistical plan Bs" there will be no effect on volume, according to Hortgro product manager Jacques du Preez. Pear exports are set to rise by 4.8% while apple shipments are in line for a 2.2% increase. Du Preez tells about the season thus far and the industry's prospects in the face of rising costs like freight and wages. manzanas-y-peras_52861529 _ panorama

Du Preez said everything had been "running smoothly" for South Africa's pome fruit growers and shippers since the initial hiccups.

"So far we have concluded an excellent Williams crop and export volumes. The apple and pear harvest is well underway and looking good so far," he said.

"There have been no real problems with growing conditions so far, with some sunburn here and there, but this is expected at this time of the year."

The European situation also bodes well on the demand side.

"The European market is rather empty and demand for Southern Hemisphere fruit therefore high. We have developed and expanded into other markets like Africa, the Middle and Far East over the past few years.

"So the economics of supply and demand determines/predicts that prices should be better in a scenario like the one we are currently in. We hope that this will relate into higher prices to producers."

Export estimates by variety

In terms of South Africa's leading pear variety Packham's Triumph, exports are expected to fall by 2% but growth is estimated for varieties down the ranks such as Forelle (8%), Williams (30%) and Abate Fetel (15%).

Beurre Bosc, Doyenne du Comice, Golden Russet and Beurre Hardy volumes should be stable, while falls are expected for Vermont Beauty (-14%), Rosemarie (-21%) and Flamingo (-27%) pears.

The country's top apple variety Golden Delicious is also due for a minor fall of 1%, but the next two leading varieties Granny Smith and Gala are set for increases of 2% and 5% respectively.

Cripps Pink shipments are set to jump by 24%, but the premium brand that comes from this variety, Pink Lady, is in line for a 6% fall.

Exports of Top Red/Starking and Cripps Red apples are expected to fall by 3% and 35% respectively, while the industry is aiming for shipment growth in Braeburn (4%), Fuji (7%) and Sundowner (112%).

Rising to industry challenges

Du Preez said the rand's value against the dollar, euro and pound was favorable for South Africa's exports, but on the other hand there was a dramatic rise in minimum wages, fuel, shipping and electricity.

"With the increase in pretty much all the production elements, producers are facing a real challenge to ensure efficiency, farm with the right cultivars in the right place, stay on top technological advances and improve production techniques with innovation to ensure optimal yields and packouts," he said.

"They will also have to ensure they manage the rest of the supply chain off-farm as best as possible to ensure optimal returns."

He said an in-depth look at labor force productivity would have to be undertaken to cut out inefficiency.

"Application and use of the labor force will be re-evaluated. Ultimately mechanization will also form part of this process. We simply have to become more efficient and productive.

"But it's not just South Africa that's struggling with labor issues. It seems to be a problem in most of the fruit producing countries of the Southern Hemisphere as well as Europe."

He said the level of competition varied between products and markets.

"In the U.K. we are for instance the biggest in pears compared to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, but in Europe Argentina is the biggest."

He cited several factors that counted in South Africa's favor from a competitive perspective, including its position as the closest Southern Hemisphere source to Europe; direct trading; packing at source; continuity of supply; technical advancement; breeding and varietal development; the ethical treatment of workers; reliable infrastructure; adherence to leading quality and food safety protocols; environmentally friendly production; and the best quality and best tasting fruit.


Du Preez added that the industry would not stop the development of new cultivars completely, but made a decision last year to enhance existing varieties.

"We just feel that return on our investment in these [breeding] programs will be higher in improving existing cultivars in terms of yield, packouts, color, resistance, etcetera.

"For stonefruit this is not the case - new varieties are the name of the game."


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