According to the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, the positive outlook for apple and pear exports signals good news for the recovery of the economy and job creation. It is also indicative that the sector is recovering from the impact of severe droughts, Meyer believes.
Apple and pear export volume is expected to reach 67.3 million cartons, 32% higher than the 2019 crop. The apple export crop is expected to rise by 6% to 47.47 million cartons and the pear crop by 8% to 19.83 million cartons.
Apples are expected to represent 70% of the pome fruit export crop.
According to Meyer the horticultural sector was the only sector with a positive real gross income growth of 9% year on year in the third quarter of 2021. This he believes illustrates the significant contribution of the Western Cape to the agricultural industry.
“This encouraging news is supported by the Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy medium-term projection, which indicates growth in the pome sector will contribute to employment. The deciduous fruit growers association (Hortgro) endorses this view.
“Hortgro confirmed that in 2020, the area farmed with pears was 12 913 ha and apples 25 272 ha, which is an expansion of 5% and 4% respectively since 2016. Furthermore, the apple and pear farms combined employ a total of 42 756 people,” Meyer said.
Meanwhile according to the department’s senior agricultural economist, Tshepo Morokong, the province contributes significantly to Mzansi’s apple and pear exports.
On average, Morokong said, the Western Cape contributes over 85% to the country’s apple exports.
“South Africa’s apple exports, valued at R6.6 billion in 2020, grew by an average annual growth rate of 24%, and for the past five and ten year period, it was growing at 7% and 13% respectively,” he pointed out.
Furthermore, the provincial contribution to national pear exports for the past nine years was on average over 88%, Morokong said.
“South Africa’s pear exports were worth R3.1 billion in 2020 and grew by 18% compared to the previous year, and in the past five years, the annual average growth rate was at 9%,” he said.
Cape Town port situation
Inefficiencies at the Cape Town Port puts the Western Cape agricultural exports at risk and Meyer said he is concerned.
He said , while he is pleased by the outlook for agricultural exports such as apples and pears, he remained concerned by persisting reports of inefficiencies at the Cape Town Port.
“These inefficiencies at the port exacerbate challenges experienced by the sector. These include trade facilitation and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global shipping operations,” he said.
Meanwhile according to Hortgro, numerous actions together with other industry associations (SATI, FPEF, CGA, BerriesZA, FruitSA), have been taken to address the situation.
These include weekly operational meetings with the management of Transnet and the Cape Town terminal involving other stakeholders ranging from the freight forwarders, truckers, exporters, packhouses, cold stores, shipping lines, Western Cape government and PPECB to discuss operational issues and contingency measures.
Meyer said that urgent intervention was required to improve productivity and efficiency at Cape Town Port. “It is for this reason that the Western Cape government will continue to engage the Cape Town Port Authority and the sector to ensure that challenges relating to productivity, inefficiencies and outdated infrastructure are addressed.”
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