Avocados are the new talking point across the Cape regions as producers search for fresh fruit categories to tap into

Fruit growers are said to be diversifying their farming businesses as production of avocados rise in South Africa’s Southern and Western Cape regions.


The Cape regions have already reported the planting of 1,000ha of avocados – which is now contributing about 5 per cent of the national crop.

Nothing seems to be impossible in modern fruit production as growers in different areas of South Africa explore new product categories across contrasting climatic regions.

In some cases, this is driven by climate change, and in others new categories have just never previously been seriously considered.

An example of this is the development of apple varieties which have low chilling requirements, enabling growers in the north of the country and even as far as Namibia to plant them.

These also ripen earlier than traditional apple varieties and can therefore be marketed earlier than normal.

The Cape has always been the dominant blueberry region and is likely to stay so for some time. However, in recent years rapid expansion has taken place in the north of the country with the industry now able to supply export markets over longer periods.

Once South Africa gets access to major consumer markets in the East such as India and China, the expansion in the northern regions is expected to continue because they are ideally suited to supply these markets from the country’s eastern ports.

Another example is the fact that avocado production is now spreading to the Southern and Western Cape regions.

In these regions the harvest is between October and December, even January, which offers growers opportunities to market their fruit much later than in the past.

While the scale of production of traditional categories is so large that these new development may appear insignificant, they are nevertheless important.

Growth of production in these regions not only boosts supplies during what used to be traditional off-season also enables exports towards the end of the year, which was not possible before. It also has made South Africa self-sufficient in avocados for the local market.

Subtrop’s Derek Donkin says regions in the Southern and Western Cape are very suitable to avocado production if the selected areas do not suffer from frost.

“The Mediterranean climate in countries around the world are all avocado regions and it is natural that growers there will also plant avocados,” he explained.

Latest information indicates that avocado orchards are now also established in the Helderberg Basin near Somerset West and at Riebeek Kasteel near the Berg River in the Western Cape.

One can only imagine what the legendary fruit grower, Ward Gant, of Lourensford Estates near Somerset-West, would have said if he was alive today. “What, avocados in my apple and pear orchards, what a travesty!”

Gant’s claim to fame was that he always packed the first William’s Bon Chretien pears of the season in early January and by getting them first to the market, earned lots of money.

Supermarket buyers of yesteryear will recall the mad drives through the Lourensford orchards on Gant’s beach buggy when they visited the farm.

These days Lourensford’s Fruit orchards are managed by the Karsten Group – and production executive Piet du Plessis confirmed that there were now already 15ha of avocados on the Estate. ”It is early days, but we are very pleased with the ways things are going,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Western Cape, orchards at Riebeek Kasteel are still very young. For the time being the regions from George to Heidelberg will dominate production, with these late areas already accounting for five per cent of the national crop.