As the South African apple and pear industry starts shipping its first fruit of 2019, it closes the book on what was, volume wise, a disappointing 2018 season.
The new season forecast should be announced shortly – and early signs are that it will be a modest improvement on the 2018 harvest.
In general growers have more water available than last season and climatic conditions have been much better.
For 2018, export figures show that the apple crop was 6 per cent lower than during 2017, with pears being 3 per cent down on the previous year.
Hortgro’s weekly report summing up the season at the end of the year, represents only shipments during 2018. The figures would therefore include shipments into Africa of 2017 fruit at the beginning of 2018, but would exclude fruit from the 2018 harvest, which is still being shipped.
The reason for this is that South Africa now has close to a 14-month season. The new harvest started in earnest in early January, but late shipments of the previous season may continue until the end of February.
Key varieties, Golden Delicious and Royal Gala, were more affected by the drought during 2018 than other varieties. Golden Delicious was down 14 per cent on the previous season and Royal Gala 18 per cent down. Granny Smith was down 8 per cent and Cripps Pink 9 per cent.
However, Pink Lady was 14 per cent up and Fuji 12 per cent higher than in the previous season. The four biggest varieties represent almost 66 per cent of the total crop and them being lower than the previous year, clearly had a big impact on fortunes during 2018.
In terms of pears, Packham’s Triumph, the leading South African pear cultivar, was 13 per cent down.
In total 31.4m cartons of apples were exported in 2018 and 16.9m cartons of pears.