SOUTH AFRICA – Despite the challenges faced in 2022, the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) said South Africa’s perishable produce industry achieved record export figures in 2022 reaching over 3.5 million tonnes, an 8% increase in fresh produce export volumes.

Lucien Jansen, CEO of PPECB, South Africa’s independent quality certification agency for cold chain producers and exporters of perishable food, said over 60% of locally produced fruit in South Africa was exported, particularly to markets abroad.

However, the industry body believes there was significant potential for growth in Asia, a market that already took up around 19% of all South Africa’s fruit exports.

During the export season, the agency said exporters faced challenges that concerned the movement of fruit and vegetables including congestion at the local ports, which was a long-standing concern.

In addition, the floods in the last period of 2022 in the Lower Orange River significantly impacted grape crops as well as the continued load shedding remained a concern and put pressure on the industry as a whole.

PPECB noted that the inconsistent electricity supplies imposed challenges for the cooling of fruit, making it significantly more difficult to maintain consistent temperatures and uphold the quality of the produce.

Looking ahead to this year’s export season, Jansen said: “The global economy is, however, under significant pressure, which ultimately impacts the disposable income of consumers worldwide. These further impacts exporters who already operate in a highly competitive environment.”

“Discerning international buyers are particular as to what they purchase from South African exporters (and) must therefore pack products of high quality to remain competitive. Rising input costs on the production side and packaging material remain a concern, adding additional cost pressures on producers and exporters.”

Nonqubeko Sikhakhana, an economist from the International Trade Promotions, Sub-Directorate- Trade Research at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (Dalrrd), in the latest issue of the Trade Probe publication wrote that Demand for citrus fruits remains strong in South Africa’s export markets, with the Netherlands as the main destination market holding a 20.5% export share.

According to him, South Africa was ranked the second largest citrus fruit exporting country after Spain, with a share of 11.5% of the world’s exports for citrus fruit in 2021.

The global citrus demand coupled with an expanding area under citrus plantation in South Africa should encourage the South African government to open more export opportunities for local citrus farmers, Sikhakhana underscored.

In July 2022, PPECB announced the revival of its Research and Development (R&D) division to help in the research strategy that seeks to ensure the research is applied to find solutions to problems faced by the industry.

The challenges that are likely to emanate from climate change, new products entering the market, changes in consumer demand and preferences, phytosanitary restrictions, and barriers to entry into some markets all place immense pressure on the industry and make it harder to maintain current markets or expand into new ones, the agency said.

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