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Tru-Cape optimistic at start of top fruit season

As Tru-Cape starts its 2018 harvest, FreshPlaza spoke to Roelf Pienaar, managing director. “It’s early days, a lot can happen over the next few months but we’re hoping to reach our planned goal. We did more than 16 million cartons last year, which was a record for us. There might be a shift between our percentage export versus what is placed on the local market, but it really is too early to tell. If you look at the new plantings coming into production, it’s positive, but the current water situation in the Western Cape remains an issue,” he says. 

“Tru-Cape’s procurement strategy is focused on procuring volume from the areas where our shareholders are based which is the EGVV (Elgin, Grabouw, Villiersdorp and Vyeboom) and from Ceres. However, we also have longstanding relationships with producers in the Langkloof, which adds to our overall product offering. All of these production areas, have climatic differences, and we’re able in this way to draw advantage from these differences as well as to spread our risk. Ceres, for example, is more than 140km away from Elgin, while the Langkloof, close to George, is about 400km east of Cape Town. So the area from which we procure is spread out across the Western and Eastern Cape. The total planted area for Tru-Cape’s shareholders is in the region of 7,000 ha."

He continues: “Yes, some sunburn is expected this season but all South African growers have experienced higher than usual summertime temperatures and are mitigating against sunburn where possible, with further investments in netting and other protective measures.” 

He points out that the outlook regarding the drought isn’t unremittingly bleak and homogenous across the Cape’s fruit-producing areas. The Langkloof over the last few weeks had some rain, which has brought relief to the area where the harvest has also started. “At this stage I think the Langkloof is going to do well. This is not the first year of high summer temperatures and lower than expected water, so our growers have long put measures in place to manage with less water. These include overhauling irrigation, reducing trans-evaporation with mulching and removing marginal orchards.”

Tru-Cape's promising new cultivar, Bigbucks (Photo by Tru-Cape)

Tru-Cape’s growers have invested in improved new strains, of which Bigbucks is an example. Bigbucks don’t have large commercial volumes yet, and they are expecting approximately 100 bins this year, predominantly from two producers who started planting the variety early. He says they’re only expecting large commercial volumes to start coming in by around 2020. “We are excited about the marketing opportunities with this variety, and if I look at the total trees on order it will be a massive success. To date, 273,000 Bigbucks trees have been sold, making this the fastest planted cultivar in SAPO’s stable from plant breeders’ rights to commercialisation."

Improved oil price and African trade
“We’re always excited about Africa. About half of our total volume is sold on the African continent. Over the last few years the bulk of our Goldens have been sold in West Africa. Oil producing countries like Nigeria have been important receivers to us over the years. Hence the importance of the international oil price to sustain these economies. Over the last few years trading conditions in these markets have been difficult, and we're hoping for a recovery this year.”

Tru-Cape exports to 104 countries globally, supplying both the formal and informal trade worldwide. “Compared to 2017, this time the US Dollar is relatively weak against the South African Rand. The volatility of the exchange rates makes it difficult to plan and forecast. From a producer point of view what we require is currency stability. Despite the currency and drought challenges we are excited about the 2018 season.”

For more information:
Roelf Pienaar
Tel: +27 21 850 1804

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