A new passionfruit cultivar called Silesia, bred in White River, Mpumalanga Province, delivers better tonnages with more pulp, better eating quality, good skin colour and better size, says Rouxan Jansen van Rensburg from Core Fruit. “Last year we did a huge amount of samples, for most of our clients, to introduce the cultivar to them. They agreed with us that it is a cultivar with a commercial future.”
This is the first year that they’re sending the fruit to two supermarket clients, one in the UK and one in Germany. Their passionfruit basket doesn’t only contain the Silesia cultivar but the Ester passionfruit cultivar as well, which is the dominant passionfruit cultivar in South Africa.
“Demand for passionfruit is high and it’s such a sought-after product, that despite the current increase in air freight tariffs and the exchange rate, our clients are still prepared to fly it out to make sure the fruit appears on the shelf.”
“Even in an uncertain market passionfruit is still selling well. The Covid scenario has been very interesting,” Rouxan observes. “In certain countries exotics in general is the line that’s been under most pressure, when you compare it to citrus for instance, but in retail-driven and health-conscious markets like the UK and continental Europe, passionfruit is luckily a product that sells well, a bit like avocados in that respect. So Covid hasn’t only had a negative impact.”
Given a choice, buyers will always prefer seafreight, he adds, and a trial 20ft-container sent by sea last year was very successful, as the breeder of the Silesia was confident it would be.
“From South Africa there hasn’t as yet been a lot of seafreight on passionfruit, it has always been an airfreight product, which automatically pushes up the cost component and the selling price.”
“We’ve already loaded containers this season and as soon as volumes increase, hopefully still this season, we’ll be making the switch completely to seafreight.”
At this early stage it looks like the cultivar has a dependable shelf life.
Usually the passionfruit season commences early in the year, but substantial rain in January and February this year retarded the start. It is a long season that can run up to August, with intermittent fluctuations during that period.