Home News Freezing northern winter a boost for SA stone fruits

Freezing northern winter a boost for SA stone fruits

Northern hemisphere producers are having a bad year, opening up space for Mzansi’s apricots, peaches and plums

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The effects of a devastating winter on the northern hemisphere’s stone fruit production could pose a very lucrative opportunity for South African producers.

This comes after a report compiled by the United States department of agriculture shows that the output numbers of seven stone fruit producing countries is expected to fall. This could leave the global market relatively empty for South Africa’s stone fruit exporters and competing countries.

Stone fruit production in several countries in the northern hemisphere has been badly affected by a harsh winter that brought freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls.

Read: Finally, Filipinos will eat citrus grown in Mzansi

According to the report production numbers are expected to fall by as early as 31 December 2020 for the northern hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere will be drawing to a close in Nov/Dec 2020 and start again in about May 2021.

Affected countries include China, Spain, Italy, Greece, France and the US.

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A decline in European production could be great for the local industry, says Jacques du Preez, manager of trade and markets at the deciduous fruit grower’s organisation Hortgro.

“A decline in European production will potentially have a positive effect on us. We of course produce counter-seasonally and there is normally a slight overlap when the European season ends and ours start. So, a relatively empty market will help our season,” Du Preez tells Food For Mzansi.

Jacques Du Preez is Hortgro’s general manager for trade and markets. Photo: Supplied

A decline of over 600,000 tonnes is forecasted for the EU. A significant drop from the over 4 million tonnes they expected to produce this year.

In China, a decrease of 500,000 tonnes from 15.5 million tonnes is expected due to heavy snowfalls in April which affected major peach growing provinces. Industry leaders believe the drop will likely affect the country’s overall stone fruit production.

Already exports for the country is expected to fall by one third with the ongoing Russian ban on Chinese fruit playing a contributing role.

In the U.S a decline of 26 000 tonnes from over 700 000 tonnes is expected. This, due to freezing temperatures affecting production.

Another major player in the industry, Turkey, is the only country dodging this major trend. As it stands, the country is anticipating favourable growth numbers for the sixth straight year.

Things are looking up for SA stone fruits

Meanwhile, local volume estimates are appearing great and Hortgro expects further increases.

South Africa is the biggest exporter of apricots in the southern hemisphere. Followed by SA, Chile is the biggest exporter of peaches, nectarines and plums Chile. On a global scale, South Africa is ranked between fifth and sixth in regard to total plum exports.

The country has roughly 887 stone fruit producers contributing to an industry turnover of about R2.46 bn per year. 81% of the local industry’s income is generated by fresh sales.

According to an industry outlook by Hortgro for South Africa’s 2020/21 stone fruit exports, things are looking “normal”.

‘we’ve had a great winter and most of the production areas have enough water…’

An overall increase in volumes compared to the previous season is expected, while apricots are estimated to increase by 23% year on year.

On the export front, nectarine volumes are expected to increase from last year’s 5 million cartons to 5.6 million cartons. Similarly, peaches are also expected to increase back to a normal crop (5% year-on-year).

Du Preez previously told Food For Mzansi that they were concerned with the issues regarding efficiencies at the port of Cape Town.

Staff shortages, cargo congestion, infrastructure and equipment issues severely hampered port operation.

Read: Citrus, wine exporters smile as CT port returns to normality

However, Du Preez said, “It’s looking much better for stone fruits. Also, we’ve had a great winter and most of the production areas have enough water, although certain parts in the Langkloof and Little Karoo are still suffering from droughts.”

The logistical chain has since returned to a more normal operational status and the industry is confident that the logistical challenges experienced during the past year is something of the past.

Plum growers are also anticipating the return of normal plum export volumes. An increase of 22% compared to last season is expected

On the drought conditions plaguing the Little Karoo, Hortgro says water availability has improved slightly and things are looking better compared to the previous two seasons for this region.

The past two seasons’ volumes for plums were negatively affected by the drought and warm weather during spring. On the other hand, favourable weather conditions had a definite positive impact on fruit set for this coming season.

Meanwhile, good winter rains in most parts of the Western Cape during 2020, together with good winter chill and moderate spring conditions contributed to a better overall fruit set of all stone fruit commodities.

Read: Stone fruit season has arrived!

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Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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