Introduction

Berry farming is capital intensive and export orientated. It is also labour intensive, and so has been championed as a crop of national interest by government for its employment and earner of foreign exchange potential.

Berries are sold as fresh produce, and so the post harvest process from the field to the customer plays a vital role. Prompt cooling after picking is important. The cold chain must be strictly applied, because any temperature variation will result in condensation of moisture on the fruit with subsequent increase in decay.

Handling requirements for berries differ and there is no way one set of handling requirements can be given. Suffice it to say that they are very delicate fruits and must be handled with the utmost care.

Berries are consumed as fruit, and also used as products for juice, jam, yoghurt preserves and liqueur.

Source: Trevor McKenzie

The Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) in its Fresh Fruit Export Directory includes pomegranates and cherries along with blueberries and raspberries under the category “Exotic fruit”. Although there are references to pomegranate role players, mostly this page deals with berries. Readers are directed to the Pomegranate Association of South Africa (POMASA) (details under the “Role players” heading) and its website www.sapomegranate.co.za for information on pomegranates.

International business environment

Read the latest Fresh Plaza overviews of the global market for the different berries and exotic fruit at www.freshplaza.com.

 

Further reference:

 

 

South Africa: imports and exports

As berries are largely an export crop, challenges include applying the cold chain, the cost of freight and competition from South America. Historically, most berry exports go to the United Kingdom and Europe. Improving market access to the Far East remains a priority.

There are two reasons why South Africa is well-placed to tap into the Northern Hemisphere markets:

  1. We have a range of climates suitable for berry-growing.
  2. We have a strategic advantage in the fact that we are out of season.

The export performance of blueberries, in line with production growth, has increased by around 37% per annum since 2011. Total exports are expected to reach around 42 000 tonnes by 2031, valued at a real (2020) CIF level of R3.1 billion (BFAP, 2022).

In 2019 the Netherlands, the “gateway into Europe” overtook the United Kingdom as the biggest importer of South African blueberries. There is also growing demand in some emerging markets, but it is not clear how the latter will respond to the current economic climate and high inflation levels. The market in developed countries is expected to be less affected as blueberries are more of a niche product that other fresh fruit (BFAP, 2022).

The exporting of fruit is subject to compliance with certain quality requirements and obtaining a Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) export certificate. Find more information about berry exports in the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF)‘s latest Export Directory and in the annual Food Trade SA publication from PPECB (see “Websites & publications” heading).

 

Local business environment

Find the BFAP South African Blueberry Outlook: 2023-2032 at www.bfap.co.za/south-african-blueberry-outlook-2023-2032

Statistics from BerriesZA suggest that blueberries are the largest cultivated berry in the country. They have also been the fastest growing fruit industry in South Africa. In the past decade, blueberry production increased on average by 32% per annum, the area planted expanding from 350 hectares in 2001, to 400 hectares in 2011, to 2 500 hectares in 2021. Production was estimated at around 27 000 tonnes in 2021 (BFAP, 2022).

Local consumption has grown from an estimated 314 tonnes in 2012 to around 3 200 tonnes in 2021. Demand has remained steady even with increased production.

Around 72% of the total harvest is exported, 12% goes to the country’s fresh market and the remaining 16% is sold for processing.

Negatives recently have been difficult weather conditions, challenges related to South Africa’s ports, and price pressure from Peruvian blueberries entering South Africa’s traditional export markets. Strong cost inflation and price declines are expected to lead to a slow down in the strong growth observed in the past decade.

Source: Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baselines 2022-2031, 2021-2030

National strategy and government contact

Find details of the following directorates on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) website, www.dalrrd.gov.za :

  • Directorate: Plant Health
  • Directorate: Food Safety and Quality Assurance
  • Directorate: International Trade

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 include berries and pomegranates. These crops have high market value and are export-orientated. Alternative crops are mostly water smart and would therefore be preferred crops against the current, and most probable, dryer and even continued drought conditions in the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa. Promoting alternative crops is also one of the proposed actions of the SmartAgri plan. See www.elsenburg.com.

 

Role players

Companies

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 here. Disclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Training, Consulting & Research Service Providers
Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) https://ppecb.com PPECB "provides internationally preferred food, safety, quality and assurance services to promote and instil confidence in South African products". Contact details of all their regional branches are available on their website.
Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) www.bfap.co.za Blueberries are included in the annual baselines.
Agrifusion www.agrifusion.co.za Strategic planning and business mapping
Community, NGO and NPO Service Providers
Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) https://ppecb.com PPECB "provides internationally preferred food, safety, quality and assurance services to promote and instil confidence in South African products". Contact details of all their regional branches are available on their website.

Further reference:

Finance

Companies and growers

  • The annual Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) directory gives details of companies which export berries and exotic fruit. Find it at https://fpef.co.za.
  • Several of the farms listed above supply berries as fresh fruit and value adds like berry jam … but also have offerings like group/school visits, accommodation, spas and events like a Raspberry Festival!

Websites and publications

Refer to websites listed earlier on this page.

  • The exotic fruit category of the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) export directory covers blueberries, raspberries and pomegranates. Download the latest one at https://fpef.co.za.
  • The annual Food Trade SA publication from PPECB can be read at https://ppecb.com/documents.
  • The Abstract of Agricultural Statistics on www.dalrrd.gov.za , website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, includes information on “Strawberries and other berries: Production, gross value, sales on markets and purchases for processing”. There is a grower guide for strawberries under “Brochures and production guidelines”. Find also the annual Statistics on fresh produce markets, which gives an exposition of the mass, value and unit value of the sales of fruit at each of the national fresh produce markets, month by month. Find the publications under the “Resource Centre” option.
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] arc.agric.za for the following publications, available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering: (i) Agro-processing of Berries, Volume 1 (Blackberries; Blackcurrent; Blueberries; Cape Gooseberries; Cherries) (ii) Agro-processing of Berries, Volume 2 (Gooseberries; Raspberries; Redcurrants; Strawberries).
  • 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.
  • Consult the AgriSETA Learner Guide Primary Agriculture “Harvesting agricultural crops“.
  • Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry are dealt with in the publication “Fruit and nut production in KZN”, which can be downloaded on the KZN Department of Agriculture website at www.kzndard.gov.za.
  • Find the guides for growing strawberries, blueberries and other berries at www.growveg.co.za.
  • Find the strawberry grower guide on the Haifa website at www.haifa-group.com.
  • Download the Afrikaans grower guide on blueberries at www.saberries.co.za/landbou-weekblad-wil-jy-bloubessies-plant/.

 

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