South Africa does not have access to key markets such as China and South Korea at a time when blueberry imports are growing phenomenally in Asia. This is because South Africa has not yet complied with the region's export protocols for the fruit. But certainly its booming blueberry industry is looking to gain access to the Asian markets, with experts saying this will create an additional 12,000 jobs in the sector.
“If we gained access to the Chinese market, for example, we could create an additional 12,000 jobs in South Africa, increasing the industry’s projected employment numbers from 14,000 in 2023 to 26,000,” said Jean Kotzé, the chair of the South African Berry Producers Association.
Data compiled by the association shows that South Africa’s blueberry production is expected to reach a record high of 17,000 tonnes in 2019, up from 11,300 tonnes in 2018.
This will mean an exponential increase in jobs created from 1,000 in 2014 to 8,000 in 2019, said Kotzé. By 2023, the industry expects production to reach 50,000 tonnes which will translate into 14,000 jobs.
“Amid the doom and gloom of South Africa’s recently released unemployment figures, this is a very good story to tell. But the story can be so much better if South Africa’s blueberry industry can gain access to core export markets in the Far East.”
According to Kotzé, the potential to grow the export markets is huge. At present, approximately 70% of blueberries produced locally are destined for export markets. The value of blueberry exports grew from R133m in 2013 to just over R1bn in 2018.
Businesslive.co.za reports that Chinese blueberry imports grew from 2,400 tonnes in 2013 to more than 12,000 tonnes in 2017. It imports berries mainly from Chile and Peru.