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Deciduous fruit

Pome fruit (apples, pears) and Stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots)

Introduction

Deciduous fruit is comprised of pome fruit and stone fruit.

  • Pome fruit: apples, pears
  • Stone fruit: peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries

Also included in the deciduous fruit category are grapes (see “Table grapes“), quinces, cherries, Persimmons, pomegranates (see the “Berries and exotic fruit” page) and figs.

International business environment

  • Top apple producing countries: China, EU, Turkey, US and India (South Africa is at #8). Top apple exporting countries: EU, China, US, Chile and Iran (South Africa is at #6). India, Russia, Iraq, UK and Vietnam import the most apples (USDA, 2023).
  • Top pear producing countries: China, EU, Argentina, US and Turkey (South Africa is at #6). Top pear exporting countries: China, EU, Argentina, South Africa, Chile and US. Russia, EU, Indonesia, Brazil and UK import the most pears (USDA, 2023).
  • China, EU, Turkey, Iran and the USA are the largest producers of peaches and nectarines (USDA, 2023). Russia imports more peaches and nectarines than any other country, by far (USDA 2023). Turkey, the EU and Chile are the biggest exporters of peaches and nectarines (USDA 2023).
  • The largest producers of cherries are Turkey, China, the EU, Chile and the USA (USDA, 2023). China and Russia are the biggest importers, while the top exporters of cherries are Chile, USA and Turkey (USDA, 2023).

Further reference:

South Africa: imports and exports

Deciduous fruit contributes the following to South Africa’s fruit exported: pome fruit (16%), table grapes (16%), and stone fruit (6%). Berries are also classified as exotic fruit, which makes up 3% of fruit exported by South Africa (FPEF, 2024).

Pome fruit:

  • Apples were exported mostly to the Far East & Asia (35%), Africa (27%), the UK (14%), Middle East (11%) and Europe (8%) (FPEF, 2024).
  • Pears went mostly to Europe (28%), Far East & Asia (24%), Middle East (18%) and Russia (15%) (FPEF, 2024).

Stone fruit:

  • Peaches were exported mostly to the UK (42%), Middle East (38%) and Europe (14%) (FPEF, 2024)
  • Nectarine exports went mostly to the UK (48%), Europe (33%) and the Middle East (13%) (FPEF, 2024)
  • Plums were exported to Europe (47%), the UK (19%), the Middle East (18%), the USA and Canada (6%), and Russia (5%) (FPEF, 2024)
  • Apricots were exported to the Middle East (54%), the UK (23%), and Europe (22%) (FPEF, 2024)
  • Cherries went to the UK (59%), Middle East 23%), Far East & Asia (10%), Europe (6%), and the Indian Ocean Islands (2%) (FPEF, 2024)

The annual Fresh Fruit Exporter Directory by the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF), and the Food Trade SA publication from Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) give trade statistics for the different fruit sectors. Download these at https://fpef.co.za and https://ppecb.com/documents respectively.

Local business environment

Deciduous fruit is grown mainly in the Western Cape and in the Langkloof Valley of the Eastern Cape. Smaller production areas are found elsewhere in the country, most noticeably along the Orange River and in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Cherries, historically grown in Ficksburg, has gone from a 166 hectare industry in 2013 to a 549 hectares one in 2021. 56% of the industry is now in Ceres (BFAP, 2022).

Challenges in this industry include:

  • Load shedding, which disrupts irrigation, cold chain and packhouse operations, leading to additional costs. [The 2023-2032 BFAP Baseline includes a mini-study “Impact of production and supply chain shocks: a loadshedding case study in the apple industry” – ed.]
  • The war in Ukraine which has rising input costs worse.
  • Logistical and port challenges.
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Technical efficiency (like irrigation scheduling, orchard design, etc.) and strategic planning are important to keep farms going. Included in trends and drivers of change to be accommodated are:

  • South Africa is a water stressed country and there is a need to make optimal use of water and for efficiency in irrigation systems. Choice of cultivar when replacing orchards – even choice of enterprise – increasingly important.
  • Keeping an eye on the ratio between the cost of labour and capital (using mechanical equipment like mechanical platforms can help here).
  • The exchange rate plays a vital role in the profitability of farming
  • National and international food safety and environmental legislation and regulations, local and international standards like GLOBALG.A.P. all need to be adhered to.
  • It is important to improve the quality of human capital (education and training of farm workers)
  • The political context (land reform policy, BBBEE)

 

Source: adapted from past BFAP Baseline Agricultural Outlooks

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Further reference:
  1. The BFAP Baseline looks at the performance of deciduous fruit. Find the document at www.bfap.co.za.
  2. For information and statistics please visit the HORTGRO website at www.hortgro.co.za.
  3. The annual USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report “Fresh Deciduous Fruit Annual” provides a very worthwhile introduction to deciduous fruit in South Africa. Find it at https://apps.fas.usda.gov.
  4. Various deciduous fruits and their value chains have been covered comprehensively in the Market Value Chain Profiles on the Marketing Directorates web pages of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) at www.dalrrd.gov.za (take the “Old website” option). See if the directorate has resumed these publications.

Transformation

National strategy and government contact

  • Nectarines, plums, prunes, table grapes, raisins, apples and pears are all important crops for the country, having high-growth-potential while also being labour intensive (Sihlobo, 2018).
  • The National Development Plan singled out the fruit sector as one of the labour-intensive industries with huge expansion and labour creation potential. The BFAP Baseline 2019 noted that apples and table grapes were among those industries that have already expanded beyond the targets of the NDP (BFAP, 2019).
  • Fruit export development has featured in previous government strategies like the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2018/19 – 2020/21. The intention was to accelerate export growth and develop value-added/processed products in both new and existing markets.
  • The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has the Alternative Crops Fund (ACF) – R3 million per annum – to boost exports and bolster land reform. Alternative, smaller crops like cherries, berries and pomegranates have high market value and are export-orientated. They are also mostly water smart and would therefore be preferred crops. Promoting alternative crops is also one of the proposed actions of the SmartAgri plan.
  • Fruitlook is an open access online platform to monitor vineyards and orchards. It is funded by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. Fruitlook enables farmers to cut water use by up to 30%. Visit www.fruitlook.co.za.

Government contacts

  • Find information and further contact details on the different directorates of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) at www.dalrrd.gov.za.
  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) www.namc.co.za

Role players

Note: Click to expand the headings below.  To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

 
Vital Bugs – www.vitalbugs.co.za Biological fly and other pests control
Citrashine – http://citrashine.co.za Post harvest treatment of fruit and vegetables
Culdevco – www.culdevco.co.za Deciduous fruit licensing
International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) – www.freshproduce.com Find contact details for the South African representative on the website.
HORTGRO – www.hortgro.co.za HORTGRO is the mouthpiece of the deciduous fruit industry, communicating with government authorities and other interest groups on behalf of several groupings in protecting producers’ interests. Deciduous fruit role players in HORTGRO are: (i) Hortgro Pome (ii) Hortgro Stone (iii) Dried Tree Fruit.

Further reference:

Training and research

  • Short course training is one of the offerings at Agricultural Colleges. Pruning and manipulation of deciduous fruit, parts and functioning of the deciduous fruit tree etc are covered at Elsenburg, for example. Find details of the colleges on the “Agricultural education & training” page.
  • Learnerships and apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job learning along with some theoretical training. The major part of the training can be offered on the farm. Find information on learnerships on the “Agricultural education & training” page, or at the AgriSETA website, www.agriseta.co.za (under “Skills delivery” option).
  • Find the details for training providers on the “Agricultural education and training” page.

Companies

Websites and publications

Refer to the websites and documents mentioned earlier on this page.

  • A number of grower publications can be found on the DALRRD website. Find the brochures and production guidelines. These include (i) Brochure apricots (ii)  Brochure Plums (iii) Nectarine production guidelines (iv) Persimmon and (v) Plums production guidelines. Also available is the Info Pak Step-by-step Export manual for the South African fruit industry.
  • Available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the publication “Agro-processing of Deciduous fruit (Apples, apricots, grapes, pears, plums, peaches, figs)”. Call 012 852 4017 or visit www.arc.agric.za.
  • CD Roms from the ARC-Plant Health and Protection (PHP) include: Crop Pests, vol. 1: Deciduous Fruit, Grapes and Berries. Write to booksales [at] arc.agric.za or infopri [at] arc.agric.za.
  • The AgriSETA Assessment Guide Primary Agriculture “Monitor the establishment of a crop” includes orchard trees. Another relevant learner guides include “Harvesting agricultural crops”. See www.agriseta.co.za.
  • Several deciduous fruits are dealt with in the publication “Fruit and nut production in KZN“, which can be downloaded at www.kzndard.gov.za
  • The SA Fruit Journal looks at research, news on technical matters, exports. Visit www.safj.co.za.
  • Fruitlook is an open access online platform to monitor vineyards and orchards. It is funded by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. Visit www.fruitlook.co.za.
  • Find the pages on growing apples and pears on https://wikifarmer.com.

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