After a few tough seasons, things are looking up for Mzansi’s pome fruit industry. The 2020 to 2021 harvesting season is currently underway and growers have high hopes for a good crop.
According to Hortgro, representing stone and pome fruit growers nationwide, last year’s improved winter rains and cooler weather during spring and the flowering period made for a good crop.
“Growers in general are excited about the season ahead as colour and pack-outs are looking promising. Young orchards that will come into production, as well as the favourable weather conditions, have positively impacted the export crop estimate,” Hortgro confirms in a recent newsletter.
It’s about time!
Jacques Du Preez, Hortgro’s general manager for trade and markets, tells Food For Mzansi the positive outlook means growers can look forward to a more “normal” crop after a couple of tough seasons, including the drought years.
“This will give them and the rural economies that depend on the pome fruit industry a welcome relief,” he says.
While his organisation estimates that the season will likely be five to ten days late, they reckon the later cultivars could still catch up.
In the meantime, most apple varieties are expected to increase on the 2020 harvest. An increase of 4% is expected on apples and 2% on pears.
The increase on pears, Hortgro says, can be attributed to Packham’s Triumph volumes of about 6% and Abate Fetel returning to a normal yield. Packham’s Triumph and Abate Fetel are pear varieties with a long shelf life.
However, the same can at this stage not be said for Early Bon Chretien pears which have been negatively affected by russeting. Russeting is described as a brownish, roughened area on the skin of fruit caused by injury.
Compared to the previous season, a decrease of 14% is most likely to occur, Hortgo says.
Hope somewhat restored
Last year, expectations for a good apple and pear season were met with much uncertainty due to the spread of Covid-19 around the world. This has slightly changed and Du Preez believes the worst is behind us.
While the spread of the virus is still rampant, Mzansi and the world are much better equipped and prepared to deal with its impact, he says.
“Protocols, procedures and contingencies are in place on the production (farm and packhouse), logistical (port specifically) and consumer side to mitigate its effect and risk.
“We are much wiser in what to do and how to do it after the uncertainty of the first wave,” HORTGRO SAYS.
He adds consumers are also much more health conscious and this contributes positively to the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
“It’s by no means plain sailing, but the chaos experienced during the initial months of last year is behind us,” Du Preez states.
‘Above average’ harvest
Meanwhile, Paul Lombard, managing director of Eve Brand, a pome fruit farm in the Eastern Cape, says they were deeply concerned for the harvest when a severe hailstorm hit the Langkloof area.
The hailstorm hit the Langkloof region during the second week of January 2021. The hail was localised between the Haarlem and Misgund areas.
“However, we are happy with the outcomes. This year’s harvest is so much better than that of last year. So far it looks like our harvest volumes for this year will be above average, except for the Misgund area which received the hailstorm,” Lombard says.
Hortgro says the fruit size from the orchards that were not affected is also looking better and higher pack-outs are anticipated.