While three South African stonefruit categories are likely to decline in volume this year, nectarines are expected to show strong growth

With the early South African stonefruit crop now done, clear patters are developing. Shipments of nectarines, for example, are running ahead of expectations, but the early plum crop, where most investment has taken place in recent years, is down.

South African apricots Coop Jan 2024

This is likely to continue for the rest of the season, with plums expected to end 4 per cent below last season’s crop.

Some exporters have said they have packed and shipped up to 60 per cent more nectarines in the early season – however logistical problems in the port of Cape Town have hampered exports.

Hortgro predicted that exports of nectarines would increase by 20 per cent this year – from 7.7m cartons last year to 9.2m this year.

“The increase is due to young orchards coming into production as well as new cultivars with higher yields,” Hortgro noted. ”The early season volumes are up by 23 per cent, and mid and late season volumes are estimated to respectively increase by 22 per cent and 23 per cent compared to 2022/2023.”

The high increase in the early season is due to it being seven to ten days earlier this year.

Although increases in certain regions have been reported for early plums, growers have also experienced some problems with wind damage to fruit, which affected packouts. This is the main reason the export volume will be down on the previous campaign.

For apricots it is another story of declining volumes. The export crop is expected to drop by some 33 per cent year-on-year. The drop in peach exports is another ongoing continuing trend seen over the past few seasons.

The disruption in export logistics, mainly at the port of Cape Town, is likely to increase demand for specialised reefers for the rest of the South African season.

The specialised reefer terminal is less affected by problems elsewhere at the port, and although this is a more expensive option and reefers are only confirmed three weeks in advance based on committed volumes, growers and exporters are beginning to see them as vital to stonefruit export success.

It is expected that there will now be weekly specialised reefer shipments over the next eight to ten weeks.