Three years of significant growth in South African apple and pear exports ends with moderate predictions for 2023

Apples and pears stacked

South Africa’s apple and pear exports are set for a small reduction this season with the industry describing it as an average crop.

The export crop is expected to be slightly lower at 44.8m cartons, while pears are expected to show a 3 per cent decline compared with last year. The season will come to an end in December.

South Africa’s pomefruit industry body, Hortgro, said the 2023 harvest was in full swing.

“Growers are anticipating an export crop that is slightly lower than the previous season,” Hortgro stated. ”The lower export volumes are a result of hail experienced during November and December which caused damage in one of the major regions, namely Ceres, and to a lesser degree in the Langkloof.”

Hortgro said that despite the hail, the rain during the same period provided relief to growers and ensured that there would be sufficient irrigation water to see the season through. 

“The season is about one week earlier compared to last year with good eating quality,” Hortgro continued.

While apple export volumes are expected to decrease by 1 per cent and pears by 3 per cent, late season apple varieties such as Cripps Pink/Pink Lady and Cripps Red/Joya are expected to increase by 2 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.

“This is due to newer cultivar strains with better yields and packouts being planted in recent years,” Hotgro outlined.

”On the pear front, Forelle is expected to maintain a normal crop of around 4m cartons, while Packhams’ Triumph volumes are anticipated to remain the same as the last two seasons. The summer blushed pears such as Cheeky, Celina and Rosemarie are expecting slight increases.”

The South African apple export grew rapidly between 2020 and 2022, from 36.7m cartons to 45.2m cartons. Pears grew from 16.8m cartons in 2020 to 21.196m last year.

It is interesting to note that a new full-red Gala strain, Bigbucks, nearly doubled in export production last year and is clearly seen as one of the rising stars of the future.

With both the apple and pear export seasons now gaining momentum, and the table grape exports from the mid-season and late season regions now in full swing, exporters are hoping for a smooth operation in the port of Cape Town, where delays and strikes caused problems last year.

“So far we have a much improved situation although we are not really where we want to be,” said Jacques du Preez of Hortgro.