Agriculture has a vital role to play in SA’s economic reconstruction and recovery path after the Covid-19 shock. The government appreciates the potential of this sector, and has thus partnered with the private sector in drafting an Agricultural & Agro-Processing Master Plan. It is expected to be launched in the coming months, and with the commitment and implementation of all social partners there could be progress.
A clear focus on commodities with the potential for growth but that have not featured as prominently as crops such as maize, citrus, and wine grapes is also required. One such commodity is the kiwifruit. according to www.cbn.co.za
The SA kiwifruit industry is small (about 200ha under cultivation), though production dates back more than 40 years. The fruit is grown in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and there has been resurgence recently in the Western Cape. While the local industry has operated in the shadows of major fruits for many years, interest is growing. This is driven in part by changing global consumer preferences and the focus on a healthy diet. It is possible that the kiwifruit industry could experience impressive expansion — as was the case with blueberries, which were stagnant for a long time expanded greatly as global demand spurred SA farmers to increase their production.
Several new varieties of kiwifruit have entered SA recently, with unique colours and flavours, and some are well suited to local growing conditions. Production hasn’t been reserved for local consumption — exports amounted to about 564 tons in 2020, valued at R23m. Still, it is a small player in the global market.
Globally, demand for Kiwifruit is clear from the strong rise in imports over the past two decades, which have grown from R6.2bn in 2001 to R58bn in 2020. In volume terms exports increased from 810,000 tons to 1.5-million tons in the same period.
Kiwifruit is well positioned as an industry with a potential for expansion in SA, since a large portion of the domestic production ripens earlier than in New Zealand, an advantage since it allows producers to access the global market earlier.