Table of Contents

 1. Overview

  • Berry farming is labour intensive.
  • As berries are sold as fresh produce, the post harvest process from the field to the customer plays a vital role.
  • It is largely an export crop, so other challenges include the cost of freight and competition from South America.
  • There are two reasons why South Africa is well-placed to tap into the Northern Hemisphere markets: (i) we have a range of climates suitable for berry-growing; (ii) we have a strategic advantage in the fact that we are out of season.
  • Berries are consumed as fruit, and also used as products for juice, jam, yoghurt, preserves and liqueur.
The Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) in its Fresh Fruit Export Directory includes pomegranates along with blueberries and raspberries under the category “Exotic fruit”. Although there are references to pomegranate role players, mostly our chapter deals with berries. Readers are directed to the Pomegranate Association of South Africa (POMASA) (details under heading 5) and its website www.sapomegranate.co.za for information on pomegranates.

 

2. International business environment

Most strawberry cultivars grow well under cool climatic conditions. However, temperatures below -0.5°C can cause severe damage to full blooms.

Temperatures in European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Germany are below freezing point for a prolonged period of time during winter. Spain and Italy also have very cold winters. Farmers in these countries have adopted various methods of "forced cultivation" for off-season strawberry production to take advantage of the high market prices during winter. In Holland and Belgium strawberries are grown in glasshouses throughout winter, using bags and pots filled with a peat-based substrate. Strawberries are also grown under polyethylene tunnels in Spain, Italy, France, U.K. and Germany.

Back in September 2013, the International TradeProbe (47) looked at the trade of strawberries. Find the document at www.namc.co.za. The above information is taken from there.

 

South Africa: imports and exports

  • Blueberries are exported mostly to the UK (83%) and EU (17%) (FPEF, 2016).
  • Pomegranates are exported to Europe and Russia (61%), UK (11%), Middle East (11%), Far East and Asia (7%) and Africa (7%) (FPEF, 2016).

 

Find information about berry exports in the FPEF's latest Export Directory (see heading 6): the above figures come from the 2016 edition. Also, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)'s “Abstract of Agricultural Statistics” has a category “strawberries and other berries”; statistics relating to production, gross value, sales on markets and purchases for processing will be found here. Find DAFF publications under the “Resource Centre” menu option on www.daff.gov.za.

 

3. Local business environment

  • Handling requirements for berries differ and there is no way one set of handling requirements can be given. Suffice it to say that they are very delicate fruits and must be handled with the utmost care.  Prompt cooling after picking is important. The cold chain must be strictly applied, because any temperature variation will result in condensation of moisture on the fruit with subsequent increase in decay.
  • Both the local and export marketing of fruit are free from government intervention. The exporting of fruit is subject to compliance with certain quality requirements and obtaining a PPECB (Perishable Products Export Control Board) export certificate.
  • Historically, most berry exports go to the United Kingdom and Europe.
The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) flagged blue berries (along with macadamias and pecan nuts) in 2011 as “high-growth labour intensive industries”. Growth since them has been “phenomenal”.

The executive summary of the BFAP BASELINE Agricultural Outlook 2017-2026 includes blue berries in the category “highly capital intensive and export orientated commodities”. Growth in these industries is expected to continue, dependent on the investment climate remaining positive. Find the latest Baseline at www.bfap.co.za.