South African stonefruit prices spike under European demand

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South African stonefruit prices spike under European demand

Following a season of climatic surprises in the Southern Hemisphere, northern markets are struggling to keep their shelves filled with imported stonefruit.nectarines_74505385

As buyers search for additional supply sources, one South African exporter indicated prices in the U.K. and Europe have spiked to near record levels.

Despite diminished volume of their own, South African growers have experienced additional supply pressure and this is reflected in pricing, said Gysbert du Toit, fruit marketing manager of Dutoit.

"Some of the other southern industry countries like Chile also had a down crop on nectarines and other stonefruit. That creates a lack of supply. The market is targeting South Africa to try to fill the gaps," he told

"They are looking for more supply and we have less available, so that is affecting the market prices. The prices on the local and export market are high. I would say they are almost at an all-time high."

He estimated South Africa's stonefruit volume was cut by 15% due to a combination of hail, freezes and unseasonal rains. This has created a situation in which local and foreign markets alike are demanding more fruit than South Africa can supply.

"Prices are experiencing inflation year on year on the local market so there’s almost a short supply on the local market. The markets in general are pretty empty," he said.

"The U.K. and Europe are ordering quite a bit more than what we have available. The current prices are good and it reflects the limited availability."

He hoped the high prices would compensate for low volume and enable the industry to end the season with reasonable profits.

For exporters working with the Far East and Middle East, however, the supply situation looked more complicated. Even in the face of shortages, the regions have expected higher quality than South Africa can currently offer, said Wian Marais, sales associate at Vanguard International.

"At the moment we haven’t really got product for the Far East or Middle East. There isn’t a lot going and with the rains we received two weeks ago, all of the sugars and coloring are quite down," he said.

"We’ve had some fruit on offer but in the Far East, you’ve got to have tasty fruit that is perfectly colored and has perfect cosmetic condition, and you just aren’t finding it."

Adverse weather dealt a blow to overall brix levels and has prohibited the fruit from achieving export-quality consistency, he said.

"The guys are picking but there are mixed batches coming through. So you’ll get plums that are perfectly colored and other fruit in the carton is not that colored up," Marais said.

"Then you’ve got fruit that the sugar varies from really high to very low. So it gets packed and it gets shipped but it’s not really what the market demands and it doesn’t do the market any good on the other side."

Although some fruit has reached the export market, he said more has gone to canning or local sales.

While pre-established agreements have enable continued and high exports to Europe, he explained that the sales dynamic in the Far East and Middle East does not permit exporters to push low-quality fruit.

"I think most of the guys are still shipping to Europe quite extensively because they’ve got a consignment deal, whereas the Far East and Middle East are more fixed deals, so it’s not that easy to work on the price and get the stuff moving. They are still pushing as much as possible to the Europe and U.K.," he said.

For the remainder of the season, du Toit said he expected quality to improve and surpass the season's initial offering.

"We are going into the last third of the season and our expectation, from a crop point of view, is that things will stabilize a bit. From a market point of view, we are expecting a stable market," du Toit said.

"We expect the market in terms of value and demand to stay on level with what we are currently experiencing. It’s pretty much a stable fruit market expectation for the next four or five weeks."


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