Despite the considerable global demand for organic fruit, South Africa isn’t producing much of a harvest. So, what’s holding the nation's producers back? For starters, the local market seems very small. South Africa has only a handful of organic food supermarkets and the low demand is especially stark when compared to Europe, where organic markets are spread far and wide, says TopFruit chief operating officer Hein Coetzee.
Then there’s the risk. In the absence of chemical pesticides, diseases and pests are an ever-present risk that need to be carefully managed. And a lack of industry knowledge, in turn, has a psychological effect on farmers who might want to dip their toes into organic farming. Coetzee believes that growers need success stories from pilot projects “so that they can believe that they can do it themselves; it must be shown that it can work.”
According to the World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2021 report, the area of organic farming in Africa has increased from 20,000 hectares in 1999 to more than 2 million hectares in 2019. However, only about 30,000 of these hectares are in South Africa.
Coetzee says most of this land is used for organic livestock production and of the 154 South African organic producers in 2019, very few are using the land to grow fruit.