The country’s largest exporter of South African apples and pears, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, fears a double-digit percentage drop could hit their export volumes this year. Producers are in the meantime encouraged to look at alternative plant varieties to avoid future disappointment.
According to Hortgro, volumes for apple exports are likely to drop from 45.2 million to 44.8 million, while pears could see a 3% drop from 21.1 million to 20.6 million.
However, Tru-Cape’s managing director, Roelf Pienaar, said 2023 could unleash a decrease in export volumes for not only Tru-Cape but also the South African industry.
“We think it could be between 8 to 10%. [Due to the] serious effect of hail in the Ceres area, close to 200 000 bins [could be] lost.”
Disruptions in electricity supply impact farm production and costs. This is the case throughout the pear and apple value chain, Pienaar pointed out.
“Load shedding is causing havoc [on] the farms, it’s a headache. One small grower spent over R150 000 a month on diesel [just] to keep going. That is not sustainable.
“We have not done our numbers as yet on the effects of load shedding, but I can tell you that it is not going to be a few thousand, it is going to be a lot,” he added.
Pienaar explained while they were looking at alternative energy, it came with a heavy cost which some growers might not be able to afford.
Advice for farmers
Citing trends discussed at this year’s Fruit Logistica Exhibition hosted in Germany, Pienaar said it remains difficult for growers to do business. Apart from rolling power cuts, climate change is also making it difficult for small growers to keep their operations afloat.
When it comes to pear and apple production, rising production costs and inflation are standing at 20-30%. This makes it extremely difficult to run a business in South Africa, Pienaar said.
“In my 10 years at Tru-Cape, I have never seen rising costs [in] operations like this. In simple terms, if a grower has costs of R10 million, the following year [it] could be R30 million.”
While it is unfortunately not a positive outlook, Pienaar said it was how things were at the moment for them and their growers.
He advises growers to look carefully at what they plant in the next few years, as the sector faced many uncertainties.
“Growers need to look at the variety of what they plant. You need to ask yourself with the inflation rate at the highest – which means lack of capital – is it the right decision to go with that [variety] at the moment,” explained Pienaar.
Global factors at play
Meanwhile, the marketing director of Tru-Cape, Conrad Fick, said every market globally was in a difficult position to do operations because of the tough economic climate.
“It’s not only ours who are faced with these challenges, the retailers are faced with the same problems, they have to run the shops with generators which come at a cost,” he said.
On market trends, Europe and the United Kingdom are also cautious about the 2023 market outlook due to global factors hampering agricultural growth.
Pienaar explained, “This is simply because of the difficult 2022 year where we had to deal with lower consumption or demands, the war In Ukraine, and [a] general negative outlook in Europe.
“Rising energy costs and general inflation in both the United Kingdom and Europe are at an all-time high. The increases in shipping also added to the burden. All of this came just after the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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