The South African stonefruit industry says that despite the drought in the Cape region, it is confident that it will fulfil its commitments this season.
The forecast indicates that all four stonefruit categories will be down compared with last year. Apricots at 640 000 cartons will be 17 per cent down compared with last year, while nectarines at nearly 4m cartons will be 3 per cent down. Peaches, at just over 2.1m catrons, will also be 3 per cent down, and plums, the biggest of the stonefruit categories, will be 4 per cent down, with 11.9m cartons projected to be exporter.
Hortgro said in a media release that there had been very little relief from the drought that has plagued the Western Cape for the majority of 2017.
“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,” the release explained.
Given these circumstances it is perhaps more significant to note that the forecast is not lower than what has been predicted.
Hortgro said growers have proven themselves to be resilient. “In the face of this difficult task they stay positive that they will be able to manage their limited resources optimally during the 2017/2018 season, and produce an average to slightly below-average sized stonefruit crop.”
Hortgro added that many new orchards had been established during the last five years, and this will have a significant impact on the total export estimate as these trees 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,” the release said. “This proven methodology predicts that in a normal climatic year these new orchards would have added 1.4m cartons to the plum estimate, 420,000 cartons to the nectarine estimate, and 235,000 cartons to the peach estimate as compared to the 2017 season.”