Kouga Berries, the Gamtoos Valley’s sole blueberry producers, is 90% harvested through a strong crop.
On some of the older blocks more than 30 tonnes of berries were harvested per hectare and their total volumes have doubled since last year, as it had the year prior.
It has been their third blueberry harvesting season, with plantings now covering 24 hectares (half under netting, half in tunnels) in the Patensie area, very close to the Kouga Dam in the Eastern Cape.
The blueberries which start maturing slowly from late July, peak by the first week of October, all of it exported by Haygrove South Africa into Driscoll’s programmes in the EU, UK, Middle East and a little into the Far East, already packaged.
“Haygrove is proud to be working alongside Kouga Berries,” says Sean Tager, managing director of Haygrove Africa. “They are excellent farmers who have not only accomplished incredible yields but have delivered amazing quality results.”
“As we consider the future impact of Peruvian expansion on our supply window, there is an ever-increasing need for South African producers to focus on these two key elements to ensure their own competitiveness and sustainability,” Sean continues.
Photos supplied by Kouga Berries
Despite initial concerns, season went off well
The majority of the crop was exported as outlined above but Kouga Berries also supplied 15% of their crop to local retailer Woolworths, both into the Mixed Berries (along with Haygrove’s raspberries from George) and Flavour Burst lines. Less than 5% of the total crop end up on the domestic market, in traditional markets or local sales to the public.
Earlier in the season there was some fruit trucked to Johannesburg to be flown out, around 20% of the crop, but usually most of the berries will be shipped or flown out from Cape Town, depending on market conditions and destinations.
“Because our volumes were double from what we had last year, initially at the start of the harvest we were apprehensive whether we’d be able to get all of the labour we need to get the crop off, but all in all, everything has gone really well. It’s been a really good season with few hiccups along the way,” says Frikkie du Preez, director and spokesperson of Kouga Berries.
A mobile packing station where pickers bring berries for presorting; each station receives fruit from 64 pickers
Gamtoos Valley proving to be optimal for blueberries
Patensie is well-known for its soft citrus and vegetable production but it has also been subject to drought and severe water restrictions in recent years.
Blueberries use less water than citrus (and about three-quarters of the tobacco that used to be cultivated on this land).
Frikkie notes that the colder nights along with warm days in the Gamtoos are providing optimal conditions for growing and maturing very flavoursome berries with a good shelf-life.
“At Kouga Berries we pride ourselves on growing some of the best tasting blueberries in South Africa. Very successful Costa and Driscoll varieties along with our ideal climate help Kouga Berries to achieve this goal.”
The partners in Kouga Berries were impressed by the Driscoll and Costa blueberry varieties they’d seen at trade shows, and embarking on blueberry production has been greatly facilitated by Haygrove’s technical expertise, he says.
For more information:
Frikkie du Preez
Tel: +27 87 350 0227