The export of blueberries is forecast to double to 8000tons in 2017/2018 as the global demand for the highly nutritious fruit continues to rise.
JOHANNESBURG - Despite the persistent scourge of drought that has continued to batter the domestic agriculture industry, the export of blueberries is forecast to double to 8000tons in 2017/2018 as the global demand for the highly nutritious fruit continues to rise.

The South African Berry Producers Association has said total production for blueberries, a rich source of antioxidants, was expected to increase from 5869tons to about 11000t as numerous new plantings continued to mature.

The association expected a bumper crop, with the industry exporting last year about 58percent of domestic blueberries to the UK, 32percent to EU, 6percent to Africa, 3percent to the Far East and Asia and 1percent to the Middle East. Meanwhile, Jacques du Preez, a general manager for trade and markets at Hortgro, a company representing pome and stone fruit producers, said the country would be able to fulfil its commitments to the markets for the 2017/2018 season “despite the challenge of drought”, which wreaked havoc in the SADC region for the past two years.

“South African producers have been forced to implement drastic, and sometimes ingenious plans, to counter climatic conditions and ensure that they will be able to see the season through, in some cases, with very limited irrigation water,” said Du Preez. The producers had, however, proven themselves resilient in the face of difficulty.

“Many new orchards have been established in the last five years, and this will have a significant impact on the total export estimate as these plants come into bearing this season. This counters the decrease expected as a direct result of the drought. The industry has used a very reliable model to predict the expected export harvest over a number of years,” he said.

“This proven methodology predicts that in a normal climatic year these new orchards would have added 1.4million cartons to the plum estimate, 420000 cartons to the nectarine estimate, and 235000 cartons to the peach estimate as compared to the 2017 season.” Du Preez said the drought impact would cause the increases not to materialise.

- BUSINESS REPORT