South African apple and pear stocks clearing out; 8% drop due to drought

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In response to the empty European and UK apple markets, South African exports to those markets rose by 43% and 12% respectively, and trade with other markets declined. With the final 10% of apples being shipped, most are going to Africa and the Far East and Asia, predominantly Goldens, Grannies, Fuji, Joya®, Cripps Pink/Pink Lady® and a bit of Topred/Starking.

Pears didn’t enjoy the same advantage, with opening stocks at usual levels, and consequently, in a full market pear exports to the EU dropped by 17% and the UK by 14%. The only growth was seen in exports to the Far East, Asia and Russia. Pear volumes have been almost depleted.

“There’s much less fruit than this time last season, when we still had about 5.5 million 12.5kg equivalent cartons, while currently it stands at 4 million cartons,” says Jacques du Preez, general manager for trade and markets at HORTGRO, the industry body for top- and stonefruit. ”From now until the end of the year there’ll be fewer apples, a fairly dramatic decrease, I think, with no overflow of stocks, and next season we’ll be starting with a clean slate, which is good.”

“If you consider where the industry stood at the start of the past season, regarding the water situation, we can feel very blessed. Dams are much fuller and the soil is wet, except in the Klein Karoo where it’s unfortunately still very dry but they sometimes get some rain in summer. Look at what happened in the Langkloof – their dams filled up over a weekend.”

The Cape winter continues with cool and wet conditions (despite a heat wave in the north of the country). “It needs to become gradually warmer now for proper fruit and sugar development but still, it’s looking much better than last year this time.”

“Our latest estimate is that apple volumes are 10% down. New plantings masked the decrease, so if you compare like for like, it could’ve been 15 to 20% down. In apples and pears, not so much in plums, older and marginal orchards were removed, like Topred/Starking, Braeburn and Grannies. For the next year or two we’re entering a consolidation phase as we move sideways in terms of total hectarage but production will continue increasing because of new plantings, particularly in the red and pink bi-coloured apple categories.”

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