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South African Apple and Pear Exports To Dip Slightly in 2023

February 16, 2023

With the 2023 harvest now in full swing, South Africa’s total exports of fresh apples and pears are set to dip slightly this year owing to hailstorms late last year, according to an estimate from a leading industry association.

The hailstorms hit in November and December and primarily affected orchards in the Ceres production region of Western Cape province, stated Hortgro Pome, which represents South Africa’s apple and pear growers and exporters. The Western Cape production regions of Grabouw and the Langkloof were also impacted, albeit to a lesser degree.

As a result of the unfavorable weather, Hortgro Pome’s revised figures indicate that South Africa’s 2023 apple export volume will decrease by 5% to 539,919 metric tons from 565,727 metric tons last year (43.2 million and 45.3 million 12.5-kilogram equivalent cartons, respectively).

Source: Hortgro Pome

Although South Africa’s overall apple export volume will drop, exports of some varieties are expected to rise because of “newer cultivar strains with better yields and packouts being planted in recent years,” according to Hortgro Pome. The organization expects volumes of the Cripps Pink and Cripps Red apple varieties to rise by 1% and 7%, respectively.

However, the decrease in apple exports should not be of concern to importers in China, where South African apples are an increasingly popular product and import volumes have been growing in recent years. Despite the rapid market growth, China is still only expected to take 2–3% of South Africa’s export volume. Hortgro Pome expressed confidence that China’s imports of South African apples will continue to grow in 2023.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s overall pear export volumes are forecast to decrease by 6% to 248,312 metric tons in 2023, down from 264,960 metric tons in 2022 (19.9 million and 21.2 million cartons, respectively).

As with apples, importers in China need not be concerned with the decrease. As a new product in the China market, South Africa’s pear exports to China are still a very small portion of overall exports. Moreover, export volumes of the primary pear varieties exported to China — Forelle and Packham’s Triumph — are not expected to significantly decrease this year. Packham’s Triumph is anticipated to see a similar crop as the last two seasons, whereas Forelle is expected to slightly decrease while still maintaining a normal export crop of approximately 4 million cartons. Furthermore, export volumes of summer blushed pears such as Cheeky, Celina and Rosemarie, which are seen as promising products for future growth in China, are forecast to increase slightly.

China has been a big success story for South Africa’s pome fruit industry in recent years. Since South African apples gained market access in 2015, exports to China have witnessed strong growth — hitting a new record and exceeding one million cartons for the first time in 2022.

After years of laying the groundwork for market access, exports of fresh South African pears to China finally commenced in 2022, with the first shipment arriving in mid-September. Despite starting late in the year, South African exporters ended up sending 37,766 cartons (just over 472 metric tons) through week 52. With positive feedback from importers and a full year to work with in 2023, it can be assumed that South African pear exports to China will see strong growth this season.

Image: Hortgro Pome


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