South Africa is not particularly known for its kiwifruit production but for the last 6-7 years a group of growers has been cultivating gold kiwifruit varieties in the country. At the moment there is less than 250 Ha in production throughout the country about half of which are the Skelton varieties and, based on the success of the last few years, new growers have come on board and around 150 additional hectares are expected to be planted in the next 18 months.
As with all fruit production there are good years and bad years and, according to Pete Nicholson from Roseland Farm in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal, this has been one of the most challenging so far.
“We had almost no summer and a lot of rain, in Limpopo 1000mm of rain fell in a couple of weeks. This will result in some quality issues in the kiwifruit, and we expect the export volume will down by around 20% on last season.”
According to Pete growing the gold kiwi varieties has been a steep learning curve and just when they thought they were getting to grips with it they have had to deal with a huge amount of rainfall and the additional challenges that brings.
“The South African kiwifruit usually has that window in the European market just before the New Zealand crop arrives, but the cool wet summer has pushed the main harvest back by a month, meaning we will miss that window this year.”
“We are still relatively new to this game and we have learnt a tremendous amount this season, which we can build on. We are also looking forward to an exciting new early, high yielding Skelton gold variety which will be commercialised next season.”
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