Challenging season ahead for South African pome fruit exporters

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Challenging season ahead for South African pome fruit exporters

A South African apple exporter expects a difficult season ahead, with lower volume due to the effects of hail and a higher residual stock in Europe. manzana y pera_27640276 _ small

Core Fruit CEO Nico van Staden told his company had its Royal Gala season underway and was kicking off Golden Delicious harvests this week, but much of the fruit would have to lay in wait.

"We are also beginning now with Packham's pears and for the next few weeks volumes will be coming on with Goldens and Royal Galas, but a lot of fruit will go into CA (controlled atmosphere)  as there is still a lot of Northern Hemisphere fruit available, such as Royal Galas from France and Italy in the market," van Staden said.

"There are also still a lot of Conference pears available in Europe from Holland and Belgium. Last year we went into a very empty market - this year the market is still there but it's going to be more difficult."

He said while the season would be challenging, the fruit available was still of good quality.

"We'll just have to leave out the damaged fruit, so our total volume will be down. It's hard to say by how much, but for our company it will probably be 15-20% of the crop."

He emphasized that this percentage drop was not an industry-wide representation, with some growers losing large amounts and others recording minor damages. The Ceres area where Core Fruit produces its fruit was hard hit by hail, while other areas like Grabouw had relatively less damage.

He said the company's goal was to continue supplying to all its key markets.

"It's very dangerous to walk away from any market, but I think the African market is growing faster than the rest."

SA Fruit Brothers managing director Morne Venter, whose company mostly sells pome fruit to Russia and the Middle East, also expected a tough season.

"Because the product is short it's a difficult trading environment. Most of the programmed businesses are getting preference, so there's a smaller trading volume which makes life more difficult for us," Venter told

"Obviously, the dollar weakness against the euro and the pound is an issue, as we are in dollar-trading markets, and they're struggling to pay the type of prices that the euro and pound markets are paying."

He said SA Fruit Brothers was able to meet the larger size specifications of the Russian market, highlighting that demand there was still high despite the crop overhang in Europe.

"South Africa produces medium to small-sized apples, so we’re not like Chile who has a big quantity of larger sizes, so the specification of fruit that goes to Russia is maybe 5-7% of the apples produced.

"It's such a small percentage but it's important for us. Overall Russia has been performing quite well on the large size apples over the years and the demand is growing.

"Russia can pay for top quality large-size fruit, and that trend will continue."


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