Justin Mudge - South African Berry Producers' Association

South African blueberry boom continues with 53% increase in exports

"South Africa’s blueberry exports for 2019/2020 grew by more than 50% on the previous year, setting a new industry record and continuing the industry’s remarkable growth story.

In the last financial year, South Africa exported 12,282 tons of blueberries. This represents a 53,5% increase on the previous year’s 8,000 tons.

Almost 70% of South Africa’s blueberries are destined for export markets. Since 2013 this has led to a growth in export revenues from R133 million to well over R1 billion.

This growth has led to an equally significant growth in employment opportunities. Employment in the industry more than quadrupled from about 1 000 jobs in 2014 to more than 5 700 in 2018. This number has since risen to more than 8 000 jobs in the past two years.

This increase in export numbers is a rare piece of good news in the midst of the national Covid-19 lockdown which is expected to exact a heavy toll on economic growth and jobs.

The agricultural sector remains relatively resilient during this pandemic as international trade continues with few limitations on the transportation of goods, especially food.

In addition, global demand for blueberries remains strong due to the fruit’s well-known nutritional and immune boosting properties – an increasing priority for healthfulness of conscious consumers around the world.

However, for the berry industry to improve on its export figures in the year ahead, and to create more South African jobs in the post Covid-19 environment, certain conditions will need to be met.

Firstly, expanding market access into demand markets is a priority.

The United Kingdom imported about 46% of South Africa’s blueberries in this last year, with the rest of Europe accounting for another 46%. Less than 5% of the fruit went to markets in the Far East.

Expanding access to the Eastern markets could create an additional 12 000 jobs in South Africa, which would more or less double projected employment in the industry by 2023.

Secondly, we need to increase air freight out of the country, particularly for commodities with a short shelf life.

Currently, raspberry exporters are experiencing extreme difficulty with exporting their berries out of the country as a result of limited air freight. The resulting delays diminish the quality of the product reaching their destinations, compromising South Africa’s stellar international reputation.

The peak season for blueberry exports (which account for almost 90% of all berry exports) will be between October to November. A failure to resolve these impediments will negatively impact the berry industry.

"The South African Berry Producers Association is proud of the industry’s growth, and its contribution to the South African economy in terms of jobs and export revenue."

- Justin Mudge

For more information:
Thabi Ndhlovu 
SA Berry Producers' Association
Tel: +27 61 993 6672

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