Well-known fruit exporter and marketer Delecta Fruit enters its second blueberry export season this year, following the opening up of the young South African berry industry.
This opportunity came as a result of the growing global demand for blueberries, and the introduction of new varieties outside the ambit of the tightly controlled marketing system of existing blueberry companies.
According to Rossouw Lambrechts, commercial coordinator at Delecta, the optimal gap for South African blueberries in Europe and UK is during September and October. The competition becomes tighter when Chile enters the market in November, but the opportunity continues up to December and even into January.
Delecta is one of the selected marketers of the varieties offered by TopFruit. Although a royalty fee is paid, the marketing strategy of the output is not prescribed. Fall Creek Nursery’s recent arrival in South Africa will also be a source of new genetics available to growers.
Delecta’s foray into blueberries comes at the request of its UK retail clients, who prefer to receive the full spectrum of fruit from their existing suppliers. “There is strong demand for blueberries, but it’s still important to note that shelf life, eating quality and bloom are essential qualities for buyers overseas. They prefer lighter-coloured fruit that are still covered by bloom, looks fresh and tells them it hasn’t been handled much,” says Lambrechts.
"We're getting enquiries from all over Southern Africa"
“We see similarities between the blueberry market and other commodities, where the drive for growth is linked to better variety or genetics. With good genetics becoming more freely available to farmers, the commodity is bound to grow,” he continues.
“It’s been a good learning curve for us, especially in terms of packaging, cooling and shipping. The interest from growers in the Western Cape and traditionally citrus growing areas in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Zimbabwe, has been unbelievable. We’re getting enquiries from all over Southern Africa, especially with the introduction of genetics that give growers more flexibility.”
He notes that producers are attracted to blueberries due to the high return on investment. “The establishment costs require very high capital outlay, but thereafter growers can reach break-even point after about three or four years due to the high return on investment and demand for blueberries. We are seeing great possibilities for exporting blueberries from South Africa. Once the Chinese market has opened up, the possibilities will increase even further.”