With the first significant volumes of the 2016 South African stonefruit season starting to arrive in Europe and the UK, it has been predicted that some sectors of the business will experience significant growth over the next four years.
Early forecasts also indicate that the harvest for all South Africa stonefruit categories during 2016/17 will be higher than last season.
The categories that will benefit most are peaches, rising to 2.4m cartons by 2020/21, an increase of 11 per cent, and plums which are expected to grow by 22 per cent during the same period, with an export crop of 13.5m being predicted. If realised, this growth will move the industry to the same levels experienced during the boom period of the early 1990s.
Nectarines will show only marginal growth over the next four years, confirming that the recent rapid growth of the nectarine sector could be over.
The fortunes for the other category, apricots, continue to be uncertain due to a lack of new varieties. It is significant that, although the apricot exports are expected to increase by 4 per cent this year, the category is dominated by Imperial or Palsteyn, Charisma, Supergold and Bebeco, mostly older varieties.
By comparison, nectarines are expected to increase by 5 per cent to 4.21m cartons this year, peaches by 4 per cent to 2.3m cartons and plums by 6 per cent to 11.7m cartons.
Growers say that the increase is due to a better water irrigation position when compared to last year, particularly in the Ceres region.
The country’s stonefruit grower forum says early peach varieties have shown good fruit set, with prospects positive. “There are some worries regarding later peach cultivars because of the colder weather during cell division. There is, at this stage of the season, a lot of variation in plums, and achieving the right fruit size may be a challenge.”
According to the forum the early season varieties were looking promising, but the fruit set depends on conditions in different areas and differs from one cultivar to another.