Attendees at the recent annual Subtrop marketing symposium had a number of reasons for celebration: the recent avocado season once again proved the strength of demand and consumption while the opening of Japan for South African avocados is on the horizon.
Furthermore, since Minister Thoko Didiza’s re-appointment as agriculture minister there has been an improvement in gaining traction for access to new markets, said Derek Donkin, CEO of Subtrop, umbrella organisation for the South African avocado, mango and litchi industries.
Commenting on global markets, Zac Bard, executive manager of Westfalia Fruit Africa and chair of the World Avocado Organisation (WAO) said that the success story of avocados meant that more plantings were taking place, with a concomitant rise in supply. “We need to prepare for larger volumes in the market going forward, especially since more origins will share the marketing window with South Africa.”
Trevor Dukes, managing director of The Fruit Farm Group South Africa and World Avocado Organisation board member, said that there needed to be a stronger focus on the core eleven European countries which currently consume the majority of supply into Europe. “We will start measuring the direct impact of WAO activities over time and look at our return on investment to see which markets and consumers are giving us more bang for our buck. The WAO continues to exhaust all avenues to push avocados into the forefront and escalate sales.”
Changing a fancy for avos into a need for avos
Domestic avocado sales rose by 10% through the avocado industry’s campaigns in stores and at selected restaurants. “Our strategic intent is to grow sales by growing the value proposition. We want to shift consumers from wanting to buy an avo to needing to buy an avo as part of their daily staples,” Derek Donkin told delegates.
He emphasised that the responsible use of scarce resources was ever higher on consumers' radar. “Millennials in particular are taking note of the ethics and sustainability around water use in agriculture. Unscrupulous water consumption will create issues in the market. We have a fantastic product, loved by so many. As an industry we need to ensure that growth is sustainable, and be mindful of the potential impact on the environment and the community.”
The litchi industry is in process of several active applications for access to new markets. However, even if South Africa did gain access into China, the right cultivars for that market are not being cultivated locally, but this is being addressed through cultivar trials.
The new litchi harvest has just started in the Onderberg area.
New requirements for mango exports to the EU came into effect this year to ensure containment of non-European fruit fly. Subtrop, together with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, has put systems in place to ensure the continued shipping of fruit.
The first mangoes of the new season can be expected coming in from next week, but the warm weather of early summer could accelerate ripening.
South African farmers’ carbon footprint will have to be addressed to remain competitive, said David Farrell, founder of Blue North Sustainability. He illustrated the effect of South Africa’s new carbon tax regime, which may be extended to agriculture from 2023: a 30-hectare fruit farmer could be paying as much as R240 000 (14,700 euros) at the top end of potential carbon tax price scenarios.
He said that farmers should be planning to reduce emissions from electricity, fuels and fertilizer inputs and start implementing carbon sequestration plans on their farms like soil health and biodiversity restoration, even though for now trading carbon credits was complicated and not yet fully functional.
The increased production across the country’s fruit crops is expected to place additional strain on the already struggling infrastructure at South Africa’s ports. Mitchell Brooke, logistics development manager at the Citrus Growers’ Association, said that productivity levels across all terminals are below 30%, resulting in significant delays, as citrus farmers experienced to their chagrin this season.
“Although an 18-month recovery plan was put in place in July, not much has been done yet. Reefers that should take a week to leave the ports are taking a month and producers should keep this in mind in terms of market timing.”
Dr Ben Cousins of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape told delegates that small-scale black farmers ought to be the targets of land reform projects, but that support from large-scale producers was imperative.
“There are 250,000 market-orientated smallholder farmers that are already showing potential. They should be the ones receiving redistributed land as they are the critical mass that would be needed to sway the landscape in terms of land ownership and commercial farming.”
Value of horticulture expected to outpace inflation
The fresh produce industry can be heartened by the analysis of Dr Tracy Davids, manager of the commodity markets division at the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, who noted that over the coming decade the growth in the value of field crop production is not expected to outpace inflation, unlike the value of horticultural production which is expected to grow faster than inflation as young crops reach full bearing potential.
For more information:
Glynnis Branthwaite / Lauren Anceriz
Protactic Strategic Communications on behalf of the South African Avocado Growers' Association
Tel: +27 11 882 9272
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