South Africa apples and pears

South Africa’s apple and pear season kicked off three weeks ago with harvesting of early Bon Chretien pears, and Vanguard International says the outlook for the 2022 campaign is “very good”.

“We are still seeing growth in the apple and pear industry that can be attributed to the replanting of orchards that followed the drought the region had years previously,” said the international fresh produce marketer in its South African apple and pear season update.

“This, along with the second great winter season replenishing all water reserves, leaves South African growers with a very positive outlook for the 2022 season.”

The 2017 drought in South Africa sparked a drive to replace older, less productive orchards with plantings of new, improved varieties or newer strains of existing varieties with better colour and yield, according to Vanguard.

As a result, production has increased year-on-year for the past three years. Total apple and pear volumes increased to 63.1m cartons (12.5kg) in 2021, up by some 10m cartons on the previous year, and they're forecast to grow by almost 4m cartons to 67.3m cartons in 2022.

Early forecasts from industry body Hortgro put the apple crop at 46.47m cartons, an increase of 6 per cent year-on-year, while pears are expected to weigh in at 19.83m carton (+8 per cent). The total estimate of 67.3m cartons would mark a record crop, up by more a third on the 2019 volume.

Asia ranked as South Africa’s largest export market for apples in 2021, followed by Africa, the UK and the Middle East. Together, these markets accounted for over 73 per cent of total apple and pear exports, according to Vanguard.

When it comes to pears, Europe was the largest market in 2021, followed by Asia. The two regions took almost half of total volumes, followed by Russia and the Middle East, together accounting for 37 per cent.

Royal Gala (9m cartons) and Golden Delicious (6m cartons) remain South Africa's dominant apple varieties, but Cripps Pink and Cripps Red are expected to grow by 9 per cent and 20 per cent respectively in 2022, according to Vanguard.

The group said its packing of Gala could commence as early as next week, followed by Braeburn and Mahana Red in Week 13, Fuji in Week 14 and Pink Lady in Week 15. Growing conditions have been very favourable so far, and while Vanguard pointed out there are still some very hot days and heat waves forecast, it said growers were very positive about the new season underway.

Turning to pears, Packham remains the leading variety, with production expected to increase another 6 per cent this year, according to Vanguard. The company also noted the rise of new varieties such as Cheeky and QTee.

Packing of the group’s earliest Packham pears just got under way, with the bulk of supply expected to come online in Week 6. Sizing is similar to last year, peaking on counts 70, 60 and 80. Vanguard said early season pear varieties were finding a strong market in the UK and Europe.