It said that the Western Cape received a reprieve from the ongoing drought with normal rainfall in 2018.
The USDA said in a report that apple production was forecast to rise by 4 percent to 850,000 metric tons (MT), pears by 3 percent to 420,000MT, and table grapes by 7 percent to 330,000MT.
The reasons it gave for all these increases were a rise in area planted or harvested, normal weather conditions and availability of irrigation water.
Apple and pear exports are both forecast to rise by 4 percent, to 550,000MT and 240,000MT, respectively.
Table grape exports are forecast to increase by 8 percent to 301,000 MT in 2018-19, based on the increase in production and “continued strong demand from Asia”.
“About 80 percent of the apple and pear production in South Africa is from the Western Cape, which is a winter rainfall region. The 2018 dam levels have risen and currently stand at 66 percent, compared to 20 percent in 2017,” the report said.
“Apple and pear production is not expected to return to normal production levels until in the 2019/20 MY, due to the measures that farmers undertook during the 2017/18 MY drought (e.g. farmers cut down trees and removed older orchards to reduce costs and manage irrigation water).
“The recovery from the drought and return to normal table grape production is expected to be in the 2018/19 MY, due to the climatically diverse growing regions, increase in area planted, and the continued shift to higher yielding varieties.”