Extensive visit by South African fresh produce industry to India brings home positive vibes

The South African fruit export industry’s focus on India – highlighted by a delegation of key industry figures to Fresh Produce India last week – is expected to provide new impetus to the country’s efforts to boost its presence in this large consumer market.

oduce Exporters' Forum (centre of picture) speaks in a panel discussion on India's fresh fruit imports at Fresh Produce India

Anton Kruger, CEO of South Africa’s Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (centre of picture), speaks in a panel discussion on India’s fruit imports at Fresh Produce India

Members of the South African delegation heard from the Indian trade that there is significant potential to grow the market in all categories of South African fruit.

South Africa’s focus on India as a fast-emerging fresh produce market is nothing new. The country’s apple and pear sector has achieved great success promoting its products in this market, with new varieties such as full-red Gala types leading the way alongside some of the trusted traditional varieties. New pear varieties to extend the South African blushed pear range are also now being planted by the industry.

South Africa’s efforts to increase market share have been boosted by a new agreement between India and South Africa, which allowed for in-transit sterilisation of South African apples and pears. This has shortened the time it takes to reach the market, allowing fruit to arrive in fresher condition.

Efforts by apple and pear industry body Hortgro to promote South African fruit across India has not gone unnoticed by the South African delegation, which was arranged under the umbrella of Fruit South Africa.

In the past, South Africa’s citrus sector, led by the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA), has shown limited interest in consumer and trade promotions, other than participating in industry events to interact with the trade.

“Congratulations to Hortgro on their market development campaign in India,” said Justin Chadwick, chief executive of CGA, who took part in the delegation. “Whereas a few years ago South Africa was not visible in the (Indian) market, there are now South African pome [apple and pear] and stonefruit promotional materials on display throughout the markets.


South African apple and pear promotional materials are now displayed prominently in Indian wholesale markets

“The Indian trade gave important pointers on what varieties are preferred. The traders also gave a warning about South Africa’s competitive position,” said Chadwick. “Import duties on South African fruit remain high while competitors are negotiating free or preferential trade agreements.”

“Should South Africa not address these high import duties while others are reducing theirs, South Africa’s position could become less competitive,” he noted.

Chadwick said the other factor restricting expansion is the requirement that cold treatment for South African citrus cannot be done in transit.

“This is being addressed through trial shipments. If the trial shipments are successful, then in-transit cold treatment would be allowed,” he explained. “The CGA is working hard to prove safety and effectiveness through the trial shipments.”

Anton Kruger, chief executive of South Africa’s Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum, spoke at Fresh Produce India on 21-22 March in a panel discussion on the future of India’s fresh produce imports. Several industry groups representing apples, pears and stonefruit (Hortgro), citrus (CGA), avocados and subtropicals (Subtrop), and berries (Berries ZA), exhibited at Fresh Produce India under the Fruit South Africa banner.