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Plum prices 15% to 20% higher than this time last year

South Africa: "It's a good time to be sending fruit."

Plum prices are higher than they’ve been in a number of years, traders tell FreshPlaza, because the markets are short. “It’s a good time to be sending fruit,” says one trader, while a number of others put the price for plums at 15% to 20% higher than this time last year, a factor somewhat diminished by the recent strengthening of the Rand.

The drought is responsible for smaller fruit sizes, which drives down volumes, but this varies according to cultivars and regions. In general producers say that plums are one size down, strongly dependent on the water availability of the various plum-producing areas. Some packhouses peak at A and AA, while at others it is noted than Bs are strongly visible this season.

There are different opinions regarding the drop in volumes. Early in the season Hortgro had estimated a 4% decrease, but plums look to be at least 10% down at this stage and it will probably drop further as the season progresses. Producers estimate anything between 12% to 25% lower plum volumes. By the end of week 2, South Africa had sent 47% fewer plums to the Middle East, 35% fewer to the EU, 41% fewer to the Far East and Asia. The largest plum volumes still lie ahead at this point in the season.

“Sunburn is a challenge this season, likewise with packouts,” says Jako van Lill, marketing manager at Fruits Unlimited. “There are fewer export cartons per hectare. Fortunately we entered an empty European market and the momentum is still there. Last year there was still late fruit in the market when we started. There’s good demand from the UK, the Middle East and Russia, less so in the Far East.”

“At the moment, we’re happy with the plum season,” notes Bryan Hughes, key accounts manager for Stonefruit at Delecta Fruit. “Volume-wise it’s not where we would like it to be, with high demand and low packouts, due to sunburn and wind marks being prevalent, and our plums being bigger.” Smaller fruit, especially jumble size for the UK/EU programmes, has been a challenge in the second half of season, with cultivars like Fortune ending sooner than planned. On larger fruit, like African Delight and Ruby Star, they don’t see any sizing problems yet, he says.

Earlier in the season there were some challenges with sugar development and while this is still the case in some areas where sugars are uneven, even within the same batch of fruit, it seems to have largely sorted itself out. “Sugars are exceptionally high,” says Jan Hoon, marketing manager at Franschhoek Marketing. “We’re getting very high sugars this year. The quality is very good this year.” 

Shipping delays
“This is one of the years with the most wind,” says Jako van Lill. “This has resulted in shipping delays, which create artificial vacuums. There’s always the danger that a number of consignments can land at the same time but in general, this year we find that less product coupled with shipping delays allows the market to absorb the product.”

It does, however, happen that fruit is absorbed so well that clients run out of stock. “When a consignment gets delayed the buyers are sometimes short of fruit and they have to go to the spot market, where they pay more for it, so they’re not always very happy about it,” one trader tells FreshPlaza.

Local market
The local market is sluggish, because South African consumers regard plums as second choice while they’re still spoilt for choice with other summer fruit. Plum volumes are high on local markets; there is an effect felt from fruit not meeting export specifications. 

Adrihan Kruger of Marco Market Agents at the Johannesburg market notes that while stonefruit in general are on the smaller side this year, the quality is excellent.

“Usually there’s a sweet spot for plums later in February, when later varieties which are sweeter come in,” says Paul Truter, marketing manager for local supermarkets and municipal markets at Graaff Fruit. In about four to five weeks there will be little competition from nectarines and peaches, and there’s the expectation that grapes and berries will end earlier, and then plum consumption often picks up.

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

Jan Hoon
Franschhoek Marketing
Tel: +27 21 876 3140

Bryan Hughes
Delecta Fruit
Tel: +27 21 860 3970

Paul Truter
Graaff Fruit
Tel: +27 23 313 3746

Publication date: 1/29/2018
Author: Carolize Jansen
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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