South Africa: ZZ2 to expand cherry business after successful first season

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South Africa: ZZ2 to expand cherry business after successful first season

South African produce company ZZ2 is planning an expansion of its new cherry category, following the first export season of fruit from a recently purchased farm. cereza-shutterstock_57240586

ZZ2's main product is tomatoes that are sold on the domestic market, and it is also ramping up hectarage of its avocado orchards.

The company's marketing manager Clive Garrett told that a cherry farm was purchased in 2015 in the North West province's Rustenburg region and the first overseas shipments under the new owners had been carried out last year.

He explained ZZ2 had made the purchase to diversify its product range and look more at export-based markets due to issues with currency exchange rates.

"Our South African rand is weak and a lot of our input costs are in dollars - for instance, fuel in our trucks, and seed and fertilizer costs - but we’re selling our tomatoes in rand because they’re not export," he said.

"We came to the realization that if you pay for your input costs in dollars, you should be selling in dollars. So we started looking for something to complement our avocados, and we came across a farm that is very unique in its time slot for cherries -  September and October.

"So not only is it a dollar-based income, but we also have the advantage that there are very few cherries in the world during that period. That’s what attracted us to it."

Although it was ZZ2's first ever season exporting cherries, Garrett said everything had gone smoothly as fruit had been exported from the farm in the past and the previous owners had stayed on following the acquisition.

Around 40 metric tons (MT) were harvested, with the majority shipped to the Far East and U.K., he added.

Garrett said ZZ2 now planned to expand production at the North West farm and has also established two trial sites - one outside of Johannesburg and one in the Limpopo province - to assess growing conditions in those areas.

"Cherries will become a more and more important part of the company," he said.

Another crop ZZ2 is hoping to expand into is almonds, with a trial site now set up in the Western Cape. The entity is testing a self-pollinating variety called Independence, having obtained a license from U.S.-based Zeiger.

"I think South Africa imports around 80% of its needs, so that’s why we identified an opportunity to grow almonds here. The worldwide demand is huge as well," Garrett said.

Avocado prospects

While the cherry season has now finished up for South Africa, the country's avocado growers are gearing up for the next campaign that is due to kick off in a couple of months' time.

Garrett described the growing season as a 'difficult' one due to high temperatures and prolonged drought conditions, which he said would likely impact on fruit sizing. 

However, he added that rainfall over the last few weeks in the avocado growing regions had improved the season's prospects.

"In the avo-producing areas of the country we have had some rain, so it has helped," he said.

"I’m not sure if it’s going to help terribly with the sizing...but it has relieved the stress on the trees."

Related story: Rapid expansion underway for South African avocado exporter


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