Fruit industry poised to enter a growth phase

With UK and Europe prices for pome and stone fruit 16% higher on average, producers are positive about the future as the industry experienced a re-establishment and expansion of orchards over the past two seasons after a number of years of dwindling hectares.

But Hortgro Services product manager Jacques du Preez said the strength of the rand has eroded most of these gains. Fortunately, from 2011 onwards, prices should follow an upward trend, fuelled by the depreciating exchange rate and rising international prices. “It’s important we regain our reputation as a reliable source and supplier of high quality fruit after the problems in our ports during 2010,” he added.

Stone fruit
Hortgro expects total exports to be 7% up from just over 12,5 million cartons in 2009/10, to 13,47 million cartons in 2010/11, said Du PreezThe industry expects a plum export crop of close to 9 million 5,25kg cartons after the drop to 7,8 million cartons in 2009/10. Nectarines could potentially yield a record export of more than 2,85 million 2,5kg cartons. Peach exports are set to increase by 9%, to 1,2 million 2,5kg cartons, while apricot export estimates are optimistic at 980 000 4,75kg cartons – almost equal to last season.

Apples and pears
Apple and pear producers can look forward to capitalising on likely lower carryover stock from the northern hemisphere.“We’re currently experiencing an excellent domestic market for apples and pears, which augers well for the new season,” said Du Preez.The Chinese market is set to open up for apples soon, which should reduce the pressure in traditional markets, he added. And once various initiatives seeking to ensure a better tariff regime in India materialise, demand could start outstripping supply, starting a new growth phase in the industry.

“My gut feel is that apples will be up 10% to 15% and pears will probably have a similar season as in 2009/10,” said Du Preez. The latest estimates for the 2009/10 season show apple production declined by more than 13%, to just over 23 million 12,5kg cartons, while pear production increased marginally to 14,5 million 12,5kg cartons. This follows adverse weather conditions and a record crop in 2009.

Advice to fruit farmers
Du Preez advised producers to ensure their production costs and breakeven prices are clear, as a challenging marketing season is expected. “We’re not renowned for producing large fruit and there’s only limited space in the market place for smaller fruit before it crashes, so make sure you thin out properly and produce good quality fruit,” he added.