RSA plums

The first stonefruit of the new South African season will be arriving in the UK this week amidst continued uncertainty over just how much Brexit will affect the season during the next few months.

Industry leaders say that the volume and size of the early crop will only emerge over the next few weeks, with the ultimate effect of unseasonal hot weather last month still having to be discounted.

The impact of the drought in certain regions is also expected to have an influence on both the apricot and plum crops.

Fruits Unlimited’s Jako van Lill said that the UK trade is eagerly awaiting the new season and is keen to see a return to normal supplies after a disappointing 2018/19.

“We know that certain growers are still severely affected by the drought and this will affect their season,” he outlined.

In general the industry is expecting better crops than last year, with the first nectarines of the season harvested in the north of the country being supplied by air. In the Cape, where most of the stonefruit crop is grown, the first fruit will be exported this week.

Van Lill explained that Fruits Unlimited is excited about the development of interspecific varieties that bring new tastes for consumers.

“This brings more options for growers and also provide alternatives to present varieties,' he noted. 'We are particularly excited about the early variety Ruby Dawn, which is a red variety and a cross between an apricot and a plum. This variety ripens in the same period as Sapphire, an early season red plum which normally opens the South African season. Ruby Dawn has a very fine texture, with a clear hint of apricot flavour.”

Later in the season there is another variety, Midnight Gold, which is black and is also expected to do very well.

Although there are major problems for some growers in the Little Karoo regions, this does not affect all growers, according to van Lill. “We are confident that we will have a better crop overall compared with last year and our overseas customers were pleased to hear this.”

He did, however, point out that the apricot crop would be affected most by the drought in the Little Karoo. “We will probably see another reduction in the apricot crop compared to last season.

“For all of us the uncertainty about Brexit and the impact it may have on us despite the fact that a new trade agreement has been signed with the UK remains a problem. This matter will hopefully play out once we reach the mid-season.”