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South African domestic prices also picking up

Late plums take advantage of empty markets and early springtime

Coming into the market towards the beginning of the Northern spring, through late varieties as well as through SmartFresh™ treatment, means that South African exporters can send plums to the Northern Hemisphere at a time when consumer appetite for stonefruit is rising, along with temperatures.

The South African plum industry is currently harvesting its late plum varieties, notably Angeleno, Southern Belle and Flavor Fall. 

The latter’s harvest started this week. “The fruits have a very nice size,” reports Wessel Erasmus of Banhoek Fruit Packers. Jako van Lill of Fruits Unlimited says: “Flavor Fall will be picked up to week 17 and shipped out until week 20. In the European market customers prefer a late plum like Flavor Fall to the early plums from, for instance, Spain. We send Flavor Fall to the EU and the UK, and the rest to other markets like Canada, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.”

Flavor Fall, a variety developed by Zaiger Genetics in the USA, has been commercially planted for only about 10 years. After a few years of expansion, the acreage is currently stable at approximately 180ha, of which roughly half is not yet in production. Flavor Fall is a pluot, an interspecific fruit with plum, prune and apricot genes. 

Incidentally, South African exporters find that prune (plum) exports to Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia over Chinese New Year (28 January, this year) find a very appreciative market. So much so, that Fruits Unlimited sent 90% of their consignment of prunes (plums) by air. There are only a handful of prune (plum) producers in South Africa. The smaller size of the fruit translates to more labour regarding picking and packing.

At the moment Corefruit is concentrating on Angeleno plums, with some Southern Belle, for the EU, Middle East, Far East and Africa. Plums are also sent to the UK but in lower quantities than previously, although it’s still a very important market, affirms Chris Swart, as well as a market for smaller-sized plums. Bigger plums leave an exporter with more options. "Our export volumes are 596 667 standard cartons at this point, but we still have two weeks of packing left on the late SmartFresh Angeleno. At this stage it's difficult to comment on prices, but the stronger Rand has had a large effect." 

He says that the quality is much better than last year, with better sugars and shelf life.

Franschhoek Marketing sent the same volumes to the UK as last year, but finds that the African market has been rather quiet for the past year, says Jan Hoon. Prices in the other markets are at good levels. “When orchards newly coming into production are taken into account, this was still a below average year for plums, but there is large growth in the late varieties and better volumes coming in late March and early April,” he continues.

The Middle Eastern market started off slowly for plums, due to late Italian Angelenos and steady high supplies, but Anton Bonnema of Niche Fruit feels that there is still time for prices to pick up for late South African plums on that market. “We didn’t send much to the Far East this year because they want AAA sizes.”

Excessive heat has taken its toll in parts of the Western Cape. “We’ve seen a shrivelling of fruit and other abnormalities which we attribute to heat stress,” says Erasmus, referring to plum production in the Stellenbosch area. The levels of the Theewaterskloof Dam, a major component of the Western Cape’s water system, are still dropping: this week it is 24% full, last week it was 26%. The slight rain that has fallen in the area now and again throughout the summer has sunk right into the dry soil with no runoff at all.

There were fewer class 1 fruits this year and class 2 fruit are either bought by informal traders or sent to domestic markets where plum prices are higher than a month ago, selling at about R70 to R80 [€5 to €5,70] for a 5kg carton and roughly R8 [€0,57] for a 500g punnet of black plums at the moment. Prices for red plums are lower. Smaller class 2 fruit are used for processing, like baby food purées, as South African consumers prefer larger plums. Market agents feel that it wasn’t a bad year for plum prices locally and that small sizes weren’t a particular problem. They do report some avoidable cold damage incurred in cold rooms.

For more information:
Jako van Lill
Fruits Unlimited
Tel: +27 21 860 1800

Chris Swart
Tel: +27 21 863 8600

Jan Hoon
Franschhoek Marketing (Freshness First)
Tel: +27 21 876 3140

Wessel Erasmus
Banhoek Fruit Packers
Tel: +27 21 885 2635

Anton Bonnema
Niche Fruit
Tel: +27 21 945 1390

Publication date: 3/15/2017
Author: Carolize Jansen
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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