SOUTH AFRICA – Pome fruit producers in South Africa are gearing up for a significant rebound in exports after facing challenges in 2023, primarily due to hail damage in major fruit-producing areas.

As the 2024 harvest season kicks off a week to 10 days earlier than the previous season, optimism prevails within the industry.

Hortgro, the industry body, affirmed this positive outlook in a recent statement, stating, “The 2024 harvest season is already in full swing, a week to 10 days earlier than last season, with indications that we can expect promising apple export volumes and a slightly below-average pear export crop.”

Apple exports are poised to increase by 7%, attributed to young orchards entering production and more favorable weather conditions. The surge is expected to be led by Bi-red apples, including Gala (+5%), Cripps Red (+11%), and Bigbucks (+33%).

Additionally, Pink Lady volumes are anticipated to rise by 8%, continuing a positive trend from recent seasons.

On the pear front, the export estimate suggests a more measured growth of 1% compared to the previous season.

Factors contributing to this include a 3% expected decrease in Abate Fetel volumes due to an earlier harvest and frost damage.

Packham’s Triumph volumes are projected to remain steady, while summer blushed pears like Cheeky, Celina, and Rosemarie are anticipated to experience a slight increase.

Despite the optimistic projections, the industry acknowledges challenges in logistics, with ports posing a direct challenge to the sustainability of producers.

Continuous communication with relevant state-owned enterprises remains crucial to ensuring a reliable and timely supply of South Africa’s delectable produce.

In response to the early start of the pome fruit crop, South African intelligence firm Hortgro expressed confidence in the positive trajectory for 2024. This follows a year of below-average exports due to hail damage in key pome fruit-producing regions.

The boost in apple volumes can be attributed to the entrance of young orchards into production, complemented by more favorable weather conditions.

Notable varieties driving the surge include Gala, Cripps Red, and Bigbucks, with expected increases of 5%, 11%, and 33%, respectively. The optimistic trend extends to Pink Lady volumes, which are forecasted to rise by 8%, aligning with recent seasons.

While the pear export estimate indicates a more moderate outlook, with a 1% increase, challenges such as an early harvest and frost damage are expected to contribute to a 3% decline in Abate Fetel volumes.

Meanwhile, Packham’s Triumph volumes are projected to remain consistent, and summer blushed pears are anticipated to see a slight uptick.

As the South African pome fruit sector anticipates a more promising year, careful attention to these forecasts and ongoing collaboration within the industry will be key to navigating potential challenges and ensuring a successful 2024 harvest season.

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