Never a dull moment in the fresh produce sector!

I’ve often written in this column about how stimulating the fresh produce sector can be.

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Consider the ongoing drought. In the southern Western Cape they’ve had wonderful rains and dams are overflowing. But not long ago they were battling severe drought conditions. KwaZulu-Natal, meanwhile, is experiencing a crippling drought in some parts of the province. It’s a crazy world.

On the one hand, the extended hot weather following a mild winter has brought extra crop production into play, while on the other, some farmers have not planted their normal summer crops due to a lack of water.

Sky-high prices
On the markets, we’ve witnessed for some considerable time a roller coaster of prices with highs reaching levels never seen before. Recently, red peppers were selling for around R280 per 5kg carton. That’s R56/ kg on the market! And the retailers have not yet added their mark-up. Incidentally, apart from the aesthetic appeal of a red pepper, 

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I cannot understand why these should be more expensive than their cousins, the green and yellow peppers. Perhaps a caterer could enlighten me. On a much broader canvas, we see predictions in by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations that within the next six months an estimated 27 million people in Africa will not have enough food to eat.

The same website talks about a promising stone fruit season in South Africa, thanks to favourable winter and spring growing conditions. Quality, size and sugar levels all show improvement. However, there is concern for late-season fruit if adequate rains don’t fall, thus placing water and irrigation management under stress.


We can be sure of one thing: the next 12 months are going to be challenging for the fresh produce sector. If water shortages really bite in major productions areas then I shudder to think what prices will do in reaction. Food security, or the lack thereof, in Africa is already a major concern. With El Niño producing all these strange weather anomalies, one wonders what will happen to food production in this country.

The roller coaster ride continues!