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First organic gold kiwis from South Africa

Jonathan Trusler of Blueberry Heights in Magoebaskloof, currently South Africa’s only organic gold kiwi grower, says his first commercial harvest of organic Soreli kiwis went really well. “We sent quite a bit overseas to an Italian organic kiwi farmer and marketer looking for counter-seasonal organic golden kiwi supply, for which there is strong demand. The sizing and quality were good.”

The organic gold kiwis grown in Magoebaskloof, Limpopo Province

Volumes are expected to be much higher next year; only about 5% of his vines were bearing this year. Next year almost all should be bearing.

“I think Soreli is the safest variety for South Africa,” he says. “It’s an established variety in Italy with an established market and it has proven itself. From what we’ve seen in South Africa it looks very good and we’re getting a lot of technical support. There’s a lot of potential for the South African industry, we could potentially get onto the market earlier than New Zealand. If you look at our conditions, our climate, our labour costs, I think we can compete really well.”

Blueberry Heights, which is not surrounded by other fruit farms, is able to grow kiwis organically because of their climate: a solid winter with about 600 chill units, well-suited to the Rabbiteye blueberry varieties planted by the farm’s previous owner as well as to the gold kiwi, which needs fewer chill units than the green kiwi. In warmer areas, kiwi growers have to manipulate the vines to induce dormancy and leaf drop and then again to force bud break, but Jonathan Trusler has to do none of those manipulations on his kiwi vines.

Jonathan Trusler of Blueberry Heights, Magoebaskloof

He had been looking for an alternative to the Rabbiteye blueberry varieties which they have been growing for the local market. “We can’t compete with the new blueberry varieties and we struggle to maintain profitability on this small scale, it’s very labour-intensive. Also, we come in right bang in the middle of the traditional blueberry season of December, January, when the market is flooded. Over the past five years there have been so much expansion and all the new guys in the warmer areas come in much earlier, September, October, when traditionally there weren’t any blueberries around.”

They won’t be taking out the last 2ha of blueberries left on the farm because they have been using the berries in other ways, for instance the annual and increasingly popular Magoebaskloof blueberry festival hosted on the farm in February.

Two-year old Soreli vines

For more information:
Jonathan Trusler
Blueberry Heights
Tel: +27 83 880 8787

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