Home News New plum cultivar could be great ‘foreign exchange earner’

New plum cultivar could be great ‘foreign exchange earner’

Prof. Bongani Ndimba from the Agricultural Research Council says the new Flavour Star plum has excellent storage qualities making it perfect for exports to far-off markets

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A new plum cultivar added to South Africa’s world-class plum collection is expected to prove quite popular, both locally and with markets abroad.

The latest addition, named Flavour Star, is one of five plum cultivars bred by the plum breeding programme of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). Although not in full production yet, researchers have already dubbed it a valuable foreign exchange earner for the country.

Flavour star, described as flavourful and aromatic, has been commercialised by Culdevco, a major player in the international arena of deciduous fruit licensing commercialisation.

In the last couple of years Culdevco has already commercialised a number of plum cultivars for the ARC to the South African Stone Fruit Industry. Four of these plum cultivars have made a significant impact on plum exports from Mzansi.

Bongani Ndimba, specialist researcher for the Agricultural Research Council and associate professor at the University of the Western Cape. Photo: Supplied
Bongani Ndimba, specialist researcher for the Agricultural Research Council and associate professor at the University of the Western Cape. Photo: Supplied

A senior research manager at the ARC, prof. Bongani Ndimba, says thanks to its excellent storage qualities (35 days at -0,5 ˚C), the latest plum member can be exported by sea to far-off markets and be a valuable foreign exchange earner for South Africa.

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“It stores very well in both single and dual temperature storage regimes making it ideal for export. Experimental exports already received very positive reviews and it will also do good on the local markets,” Ndimba states.

Furthermore, the new plum has a medium chilling requirement and can yield good production of 30 tonnes per hectare.  Experts are also saying its semi-upright growth habit makes it ideal for high density planting.

Flavour Star was recently released, and therefore commercial orchards are still young and not in production yet. Last season, 2 000 cartons were exported from semi-commercial orchards.

High local and global demand

Dr Leon von Mollendorff, general manager at Culdevco. Photo: Supplied
Dr Leon von Mollendorff, general manager at Culdevco. Photo: Supplied

As far as the market is concerned, Dr Leon von Mollendorff, general manager at Culdevco, says Flavour Star is in high in demand both locally and abroad with good reason.

“It is probably the best eating plum cultivar from the ARC breeding programme and one of the best eating plums on the world market. As a result, Flavour Star earning premium prices for South African plum growers on major world markets,” he states.

The ARC and Culdevco have not officially released Flavour Star to the public yet as Culdevco is still collecting final horticultural information on the plum cultivar.

To date, the ARC has released 32 commercial Japanese plum cultivars to the South African fruit industry. Flavour Star is the 33rd addition to the list of commercial cultivars bred by the ARC’s plum breeding programme.

“It is probably the best eating plum cultivar from the A.R.C. breeding programme and one of the best eating plums on the world market.”

Earlier this year, the Hortgro Pome and Hortgro Stone Fruit boards prematurely discontinued industry funding to the ARC breeding programme. This, after the two parties could not reach mutually acceptable terms on breeding, evaluation and commercialisation conditions.

Hortgro Pome and Stone Fruit did, however, vow continuous support to Culdevco in future endeavours. Ndimba describes it as a “short-sighted” decision which unfortunately had bearing on the ARC and Culdevco’s commercialisation licence.

Despite this he says the ARC remains committed to supporting the South African Deciduous Fruit Industry.

“The plum breeding programme will continue, and the ARC is actively looking for breeding funding partners for commercialisation of current and future South African bred pome and stone fruits,” says Ndimba.

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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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