Baby fig exports due to start from South Africa

The harvest of South African Evita or Great Parisian figs, called ‘baby figs’ because of their size, will start by weeks 3 or 4. Yukon, a South African grower-exporter of niche vegetable products, will be offering these figs to overseas retail and wholesale clients until the end of May.

The focus is on counts 4 to 6s, 7 to 8s, 9s to 12s, sizes that traditionally were deemed too small for the market. Each punnet weighs 160g. “Yukon has over the past two years been developing a market for this range to offer an affordable and convenient format to our clients and to add value back on farm,” says Danwille September, senior manager of fresh produce at Yukon. “We are gaining some good traction in the market. What is of importance is awareness, but we do see an improvement in interest in baby figs globally, as with baby vegetables.”

They serve retail clients in Russia and Switzerland. For their wholesale clients and gastronomy specialists in Greece, Holland, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and to a lesser extent the UK, as well as Mauritius, Hong Kong and Dubai the figs are marketed under Yukon’s Out Of Afrika brand.

“To a very limited extent we also offer big figs, but our main focus is on the smaller, more convenient fig, and we want to maintain the focus on delivering a fig with good organoleptic appeal,” Danwille continues. “All of our producers, from Wellington in the Western Cape where the season opens to Stanford, make use of biological farming practices to minimise pesticide use on the farm.”

“Harvesting and producing can be very labour intensive (on average ten people per hectare are employed during harvesting) and it’s a fine art in managing production yields because the product is very temperature sensitive. Upwards of 2 tonnes can be picked per day on a very hot Western Cape day to as low as 200 kg on colder days. Figs are tree ripened, therefore the higher the temperature, the faster the ripening process, and the quicker production has to occur.”

The ripe figs have a shelf life of 5 to 7 days and are airfreighted to clients three times a week, mostly from Cape Town but also from Johannesburg, arriving within one day.

Produce that aren’t exported go to local markets and retailers. Danwille points out that drying of the Evita (Great Parisian) fig still requires some developmental work to enhance scalability, but that there are specialty companies that focus on the drying of the Evita fig, at this stage still destined for the local market.

“Some producers have started with value adding products using the waste of Evita figs, for instance dried fig products from a company called Rush Nutrition. There are plans underway to develop some more value added products with Rush Nutrition.”

The drought has had an impact on the South African fig industry, resulting in a general oversupply of smaller figs on the market. Although figs are more drought resistant than other commercial tree fruit crops, they still require a fair amount of water to maintain adequate fruit sizing.

For more information:
Danwille September
Tel: +27 21 863 0890

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