Fruit and Vegetable Facts

Exports of apples and pears from South Africa growing steadily

The South African export of apples and pears is growing. In 2017, 560,000 tonnes of apples and over 260,000 tonnes of pears were exporters. This is 10% more than last year for apples and a few percent more for pears. This is according to The South African Revenue Service (SARS). This source publishes figures on the total South African import and export based on figures from customs. According to the South African branch organisation of fruit growers (Hortgro) the export of both apples and pears was around the same size as last year. Throughout the year, the South African export of top fruit has also been rising, according to this source, but at a lower level than SARS.

The total value of of the South African top fruit export is estimated to be an amount of around half a billion Euro (apples and pears at 325 and 175 million Euro respectively). This makes South Africa the number 7 exporter of apples and number 6 exporter of pears globally, according to figures by Fruit and Vegetable Facts.

Area seems to be stabilising
Until the previous season (September 2016 - August 2017) the area of both apples and pears in South Africa has consistently grown (slightly). In 2016/17 the area of apples remained the same at 24,200 ha, of which 21,000 ha was in production. That production area was slightly less than the season before. The pears remained constant at 13,000 ha, of which 11,600 tonnes was in production. This is also slightly less than in the season before.

Smaller production in season 2017/18
The total production in 2016/17 was over 900,000 tonnes of apples and 430,000 tonnes of pears. For the current season, 2017/18, the USDA also expects a decrease in production due to a shortage of water.

Year round apple export to Africa
Over the entire season South Africa exported most of their apples to countries on their own continent. The export of apples to EU countries gets going at the end of March and runs until the start of September. The export to African countries takes place all year round but mainly when little or nothing is being exported elsewhere. This comes down to the period of March - June. The South African pear season gets going in January. The export to the EU runs until the start of July. The season of the export to other countries is mostly parallel to this.

Importance of EU decreasing
The export of both apples and pears has grown in the long term. The export to the EU countries is also growing, but the importance of the EU is decreasing. In 2005 the EU share of apples was still over 60%a, in 2016 it was still over a quarter. In pears this was over 70% and around 50% respectively. This year over 180,000 tonnes of apples and around 130,000 tonnes of pears was exported to EU countries. According to Eurostat data on the total import from South Africa to the EU countries it concerned 80,000 tonnes of apples and 90,000 tonnes of pears this year.

The South African export to African countries in apples has grown in particular. On an annual basis considerably more apples now go to African countries compared to EU countries, namely over 200,000 tonnes. South and East Asian countries now also buy considerably more South African apples. In 2016 it concerned over 110,000 tonnes and this year the export there will grow another small 10%. The Gulf States were worth 34,000 tonnes in 2016. This year they were less important. There is a strong growth to be seen in the export to Russia.

United Kingdom main buyer of apples
When it comes to individual countries, the United Kingdom is the main buyer of South African apples. According to SARS figures over 150,000 tonnes has been sent to the United Kingdom as of September this year, compared to a small 110,000 tonnes last year. Figures from growers organisation Hortgro show that around 70,000 tonnes was export to the United Kingdom this year. According to Eurostat data around 65,000 tonnes has been imported from South Africa this year. The other big buyers of South African apples are: Malaysia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, the Emirate, Kenya and the Netherlands. According to SARS figures the export to the Netherlands was 15,000 tonnes this year. This is slightly less than the 16,800 tonnes in 2016. The export to the Netherlands varies from year to year, but has been over 30,000 tonnes in the past. The SARS data doesn't usually deviate much from the Dutch Eurostat data, however this year Eurostat has recorded an import in the Netherlands of 11 to 12,000 tonnes.

The Netherlands as the main pear buyer
The Netherlands is the main buyer of South African pears by far. According to SARS data it concerns almost 70,000 tonnes this year, a record. According to Eurostat figures the Netherlands imported around 45,000 tonnes of pears from South Africa this year. Compared to the previous years this is slightly less. Other important buyers of South African pears are: the Emirates, Russia and the United Kingdom. As with apples considerably more pears went to Russia this year. The large increase in the export to the United Kingdom isn't confirmed by import figures in the United Kingdom (Source: HM Revenue & UK customs, or Eurostat). 

Golden still most important
Golden Delicious is still the main variety in South Africa. Of the total area, Golden Delicious covers around a quarter. In recent years the share of Golden has been declining very slowly. Granny Smith is still just the second variety, but the importance of this variety is fast declining. Royal Gala/Gala is strongly on the rise. The share in the total South African apple area is now 17%. Pink Lady, Fuji and Cripps Red/Joya in particular are on the rise. The area of Kanzi in South Africa is now 266 ha. In export Golden is still the main variety but the share is now quickly decreasing. The share of Royal Gala/Gala was still 23% in 2015, but then decreased slightly. Grannies are still worth 18% of the total apple export from South Africa. The shares in the export of the other varieties are: Cripps Pink/Pink Lady 12%, Fuji 8.4%, Starking 6.7%, Breaburn 4,.0%, Cripps Red/Joya 3.0% en Kanzi 0.3%.

Grannies to Africa; Pink to Europe and Red to Asia.
The green varieties primarily go to African countries. The (Bi)Pink varieties mostly go to Europe. A relatively high amount of (BI)Red varieties go to the UK. They also go to far and middle East. Of the total apple production, an important share is sold abroad. Based on SARS/USDA data the export quote could even be up to 60%. Based on Hortgro data this is a small half.

According to Hortgro a lot more (100,000 tonnes) apples go to industry compared to the estimates of the USDA.

Packham's main pear variety
In pears Packham's Triumph is the main variety and the share is still increasing. Nowadays this variety represents a third of the South African pear area. Forelle is the second variety by a distance and Williams is the third. The share of Forelle is stable but that of Williams decreased strongly. Rosemarie and Cheeky in particular are on the rise. In South African the pear export the share of Packham's is still slightly more than a third. Forelle is the second export varieties with over 20%. SARS/USDA data shows that around 60% of the South African pear harvest is sold abroad. According to Hortgro figures this is over half. According to Hortgro a lot more pears go to the industry compared to the estimates by the USDA.

For more information:
Jan Kees Boon
Fruit and Vegetable Facts
T: +31654687684

Source: Fruit and Vegetable Facts

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