Late season volume slump expected for South African apples

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Late season volume slump expected for South African apples

A combination of hail damage in Ceres and scab on Gala varieties could lead to shortages of South African apples later in the season. Although northern markets currently remain satisfied with local fruit, supplies could suffer once the Southern apple_squareHemisphere's season comes into full swing.

Fruitways product manager Jaco Moelich said South Africa is naturally in a low volume year, following last season's bumper crop. Combined with adverse conditions, he estimated the overall crop could be down by 15%.

"It's a down crop, on top of hail, on top of scab damages. It's a combination of all of those factors that will make fruit scarce in the second half," he told

In the Elgin area, where Fruitways operates, he said volume appears lower than originally expected - a factor that could take buyers by surprise starting in June.

"The apple crop is definitely significantly down from estimate and more down than we thought. We knew the crop would be down, but it’s definitely more down with the volumes now that we get into the big varieties. Fruit size is average to small and has been a little disappointing," he said.

Out of the Ceres area, where growers suffered the brunt of hail storms, Moelich also forecast a larger slump in volume that would become more clear to importers later in the season.

Tru Cape described the Ceres hail as the worst in 50 years. Of 27 shareholders who work with Tru Cape through Ceres Fruit Growers, seven reported normal crop volume.

Back in the Elgin Valley, André van den Ende, marketing director of Kromco, said fungal issues were widespread around Grabouw and would take a toll on exportable volume.

"What I’ve heard is that the whole area is affected by it and that's where the bulk of the apples are coming from," he said.

Growing African sales

Moelich expected South Africa's secondary trading markets to suffer the most from lower volume. Although exporters have established commitments with retailers in the U.K. and Europe, sales in the Middle East and Far East mostly rely on surplus volume, he explained.

He pointed out that Africa has become an increasingly interesting market for apple traders. As of the 2011-12 season, in fact, Africa already accounted for 24% of South Africa's apple exports, according to data from the Fresh Produce Exporters' Forum.

As a region, Africa comes in second to the U.K., which held a 29% share.

"Africa is a significant trading area now. Africa has had a strong pull for fruit in the last few years with significant increases. If that market demand stays, it will probably slowly track significant volume into Africa," he said.

Tru-Cape managing director Roelf Pienaar also said Africa has become an increasingly appealing apple market.

The company will focus a large part of its pome fruit volume on the African continent this year. By 2018, Tru-Cape hopes to distribute 17 million cartons a year of apples and pears throughout Africa and the Middle East.

Excluding South Africa, Tru-Cape said Africa currently represents 18% of its pome fruit sales.

"An increasingly affluent Africa will grow to almost a billion people in the next decade and we are excited about what this market will deliver. We will continue as category leader and up our growth from 952,000 to 2.4 million cartons such as we have achieved over the last 36 months," Pienaar said in a media release.

In response to hail damage, Tru-Cape has created an "ugly" fruit campaign, encouraging shoppers to purchase blemished fruit from its Ceres econopacks. A social media campaign, under the hashtag #uglypretty, asserts, "Ugly is the new beautiful."


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