While the company is expecting a slightly smaller crop than the wider South African forecast, overall conditions are excellent

Despite the challenges of an early season, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, one of South Africa’s leading exporters, has said it is optimistic about the quality of the current apple and pear crop.

Generic South African bicoloured apples

Market conditions are also favourable for the South African industry, the group has confirmed.

“The 2023/24 season kicked off ten to 14 days earlier than usual, and thanks to the Ceres region being back on track after last year’s hail damage, we are experiencing a normal crop of satisfactory quality,” said managing director Roelf Pienaar.

About a third of the total crop had been packed and marketed, and another ten months of sales lay ahead, noted Pienaar.

“The crop coincided nicely with Ramadan this year, and our fruit was in the market on time, which was a big blessing,” said Conrad Fick, Tru-Cape’s marketing director.  

There is currently a good demand for Royal Gala and Braeburn, which some of its competitors are short on. “The demand out of the United Kingdom is also very good, and they started taking in our fruit earlier than usual,” Fick commented.

According to Pienaar, the Far East, Middle East, and Europe are currently favourable markets for South African apples and pears.

The country is now the biggest exporter of apples from the Southern Hemisphere to the Far East.

“The uncertainty around the conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine is creating opportunities for fruit from the Southern Hemisphere,” Pienaar said.

”South Africa’s proximity to the export markets, our timing in the market, and our lower cost of production are to our advantage, especially in the Far East. Despite our challenges and structural issues, we are faring surprisingly well.”

He said he was particularly excited about the rising demand for Bigbucks/Flash Gala from India and the Far East.

While there is good demand for South African apples and pears, Tru-Cape said the challenge was in getting that fruit to the market.

“The new management at Transnet had a positive impact over the past two months, but there is still scope for improvement in the port of Cape Town,” Pienaar continued. ”We were also fortunate that less wind during February led to fewer shipping delays. However, the logistics crisis is far from over.”

Conrad Fick said the closing of the Panama Canal due to historically low water levels, and problems in the Suez Canal resulting from conflict in the Middle East, had interrupted the route to market in certain cases and impacted the cost chain for some clients, making it more expensive.

“It remains a challenge to reach the markets with the best returns at the optimal time, and the costs we are incurring to ship via other South African ports, namely Gqeberha and Durban, are astronomical,” he said. ”The slight increases in prices don’t make up for these additional costs.”

Fick pointed out that while Africa remained a valuable market for apples and pears, the flow of currency from African countries was becoming increasingly problematic.