Africa takes bigger bite out of apple exports

South African apple exports into Africa are growing at a faster rate than anticipated – and although exports to the UK are declining, SA will not readily relinquish this important market.

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“Export destinations are clearly changing. Between 2006 and 2012 (to date), apple exports to the UK declined by 12% and to the EU by 28%. Emerging markets such as Africa, the Far East and Middle East are increasingly becoming important markets for South African apple exports,” Sifiso Ntombela, National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) senior economist, said in the September 2012 Fruit Trade Flow.

The African apple market showed 78% growth to take 18% of the market share, the Middle East grew by 148% to take 10% of the market share, while the Far East grew by 44% to make up 21% of SA’s exports. Despite shrinking market share, the UK remained an important export destination with a 34% share of apple exports in the year to date, compared to 29% in 2011. Total apple exports in the year to date amounted to over 21 million cartons, up from 19 million in 2006, the NAMC report found.

“During the past seven years, the total number of apple cartons passed for export showed a steady increase. This growth can largely be attributed to increasing demand and improving access to African and Middle Eastern markets. Improved horticultural practices and technology have enhanced the number of pome fruit cartons passed for export,” Ntombela said.

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Added to this, the industry was recovering from reduced plantings during 2000 to 2007, when the total number of plantings declined from 22 148ha to 20 526ha, after which the decline stabilised and the rate of plantings increased to 21 554ha in 2011.
Hortgro Services agri-economics information manager, Mariette Kotze said the 2012 apple season would end only in December 2012/January 2013, with the majority of fruit in the latter part of the season going to Africa.

This meant Africa’s final share of exports would be even larger. Western Africa, and Kenya in East Africa are fast becoming the major export destinations for South African pome fruit, specifically apples. “The African market has grown considerably and at a quicker rate than anticipated. However, we don’t really know what volumes the African market can handle before it is saturated or whether or not this growth is sustainable.

Although SA is still the main supplier of apples to Africa, other countries such as Chile are also exporting to Africa at increasing volumes,” Kotze said. A recent report by the Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) said prices paid by African countries were improving in relation to those paid by the UK. “The price ratio of the African market compared to the UK improved from 60% in the early 2000s to 90% the previous three seasons,” Kotze said.

She said the total apple export estimate to all markets was 26,88 million cartons which was a 5,3% increase on last year’s volumes. This year to date 23,65 million cartons have already been exported.