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South Africa: Organic fruit farming hampered by limited data

According to Hein Coetzee, CEO of TopFruit, a lack of relevant farming information is keeping South African fruit farmers from capitalizing on the growing global demand for organic fruit. Coetzee: “There is growing demand for organic fruit, and I always assumed that pests, diseases and a lower marketable volume of fruit were the main reasons farmers didn’t want to farm organically. However, my MBA research showed that farmers didn’t have enough research [data] available on the matter.”

In December of 2020, international research company Meticulous Research found that the global organic food market was expected to top R3,92 trillion by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate of 12,2% from 2020 to 2027.

Hugh Campbell, manager of Hortgro’s technical division, reported that the reason for the lack of organic fruit farming research was that farmers had demanded little in this regard. quoted him as saying: “Our research is largely done in response to requests from growers. We’ve done lots of non-chemical entomological research with regard to issues such as mite control, but these studies were not specifically marked as organic.”

Still, organic farms are on the rise in Africa. In 1999, only 20 000ha on the continent were used for organic farming, but this had increased to over two million hectares by 2019. However, only 30 000ha were dedicated to organic farming in South Africa.

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