More than 200 containers of Sharon fruit (persimmons) from South Africa will be shipped to overseas destinations this season as part of what is being described as a season of excellent quality fruit.
A huge South African promotional campaign is also underway as consumer demand for what has been described as a fledgling industry gains momentum. This campaign was launched with a series of Market Days at one of the Hyperama’s of the Shoprite Checkers Group in the Cape Town region.
After a period of consolidation in the country's Sharon fruit production, it seems as if there is now renewed growth as well. The early crop prediction puts overall volumes at between 7,500 and 8,000 tonnes, of which just less than 5,000 tonnes will be exported.
“We are confident of an excellent season,” says Meir Ben-Artzy, senior executive at Mor International which handles international sales of the South African fruit.
Ben-Artzy was speaking after a two week trip to South Africa to meet growers and plan the 2016 marketing campaign. “We have been in the orchards of the Southern Cape where most of our fruit is grown and there is certainly a good quality crop on the trees. We should be able to meet the expectations of our customers and at this stage marketing conditions are looking favourable.”
Hein Smal of Sharon Fruit of South Africa says there is evidence of strong demand in most international markets. “We are seeing continued growth in Europe and the UK, while we are also doing very well in Canada, Singapore and Malaysia and parts of the Middle East.”
After gaining access to the US market two years ago, changes in inspection requirements on arrival made things very difficult for the South Africans last year. Until now these problems have not yet been resolved and it is unlikely that much fruit will be shipped there this year.
Smal says the marketing organisation will also be looking towards increasing its sales in Africa, South Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands of Mauritius and Reunion where it achieved gains over the past few years. He notes that air shipments have already opened the season In Kenya and Mauritius and more fruit is underway.
“We are seeing the results of a consistent market development programme particularly South Africa’s informal sector. With more consumers being exposed to this unique fruit, we are building a consistent and strong consumer base," he explains.
“In South Africa there is a growing interest in new and exciting fruits and tastes and Sharon fruit fits the bill. Our special market days have become Sharon fruit festivals and the trade and buyers travel from far to attend.”