Hail in the Boland could have some localised impact

South Africa: Larger percentage of smaller fruit due to drought

Their peach and nectarine season started slowly, about ten days to two weeks later than usual, putting some pressure on European programmes, says Gysbert du Toit, director of marketing at Dutoit Agri, one of South Africa’s largest stonefruit producers.

“The European market is quite accessible at the moment, particularly the German market. I understand the weather has turned quite cold in the UK so stonefruit sales aren’t very high but fortunately the markets are fairly empty, so we’re optimistic. There were large volumes of Alpine nectarines, but it didn’t put pressure on the market. The quality is good.”

Fruits are also sent to the Middle East, which always offers opportunities on nectarines, peaches and plums, providing a balancing factor in the market. In the Far East a premium is paid for white-fleshed nectarines.

The European market is more diverse in the balance between peaches and nectarines that it takes. There is a tendency towards white-fleshed peaches and nectarines in southern Europe and yellow-fleshed in the northern part of the continent.

Effect of drought and hail 
As always, drought is a factor to be taken into account. “We started the season with a larger percentage of smaller fruit, of which we market a lot locally, but as more large fruit start coming in, the demand for smaller fruit and also the price paid for small fruit go down,” he continues.

“As we’re entering mid-season it’s still a bit early to talk about volumes. Plum volumes are definitely down, we know it’s going to be a light plum year.”

Last week on Tuesday evening hail and ice rain occurred over a wide area, encompassing Ceres, Grabouw, Vyeboom, Elgin, Paarl, mostly affecting the current stonefruit harvest (and to a lesser extent table grapes), but hail damage isn’t expected to be severe. There could be some effect on packout percentage due to marks on the fruit, with those volumes then redirected to the local market.

On both peaches and nectarines, industry body Hortgro expects a 3% decrease for the 2017/18 season, a figure that would’ve been even lower if it weren’t for young orchards coming into production. South Africa produces almost double the number of nectarines as peaches (4.1 million equivalent of 2.5kg cartons and 2.1 million cartons, respectively, during 2016/17).

During the 2015/16 season, the UK took 50% of South Africa’s nectarine volumes, according to the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum. Over the same period the EU accounted for 13% of South Africa’s peach trade and 26% of its nectarine trade. 

For more information:
Gysbert du Toit
Dutoit Agri
Tel: +27 23 312 1071

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