South Africa’s berry industry is set to continue on its remarkable growth trajectory in the next 5 years, with the number of hectares planted projected to increase by more than 80% by 2025. The number of hectares of blueberries in particular will increase by 136% in Limpopo and 102% in Mpumalanga.
Agricultural Economist Nina Viljoen shared the findings of her survey after the Chairman’s report at South African Berry Producers Association Annual General Meeting on Friday, 22 November 2019.
A significant attribute of South Africa’s blueberry varieties is their versatility, enabling production in virtually any part of the country. As a result, government and industry can target high unemployment areas for increased production. The potential positive effects for unemployment in the country are significant.
Each hectare of blueberries planted results in the direct employment of 2.64 full-time equivalent workers on average, the highest employment intensity amongst the major fruits grown in South Africa.
And because blueberry farming requires a blend of manual labor and technical skills, the industry therefore offers a path for young people to progress from low-skilled, seasonal work to careers in horticulture. From seasonal to skilled laborers, the blueberry industry also offers the highest wages in the fruit sector, ranging from 15% to 26% above the minimum wage.
The growth figures announced at the AGM clearly demonstrate the potential of the berry sector to contribute to National Treasury’s goal of growing agricultural exports by R6 billion over the next ten years. But to achieve this goal, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development must prioritize market access.
South African blueberries does not have access to key eastern markets at a time when blueberry imports are growing exponentially. At the moment, the processing of export protocols is taking anywhere from 12 to 17 years for one commodity to gain access to one market. At this rate, South African blueberries will only gain access to the Chinese market in 2045.
Unfortunately the current South African market access protocol is creating an environment where the various South African fruit commodities are competing with each other, when in fact their real competitors are countries like Chile and Peru. The only way for South Africa to benefit from the of the job-creating potential of the agricultural sector is for government and industry to work together to fast track access to markets in the Far East.
The South African Berry Producers’ Association is committed to working with Minister Didiza and her department to find solutions to the market access bottleneck and unleash the full potential of the berry industry in South Africa.
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