Jon Clark - Total Worldfresh

"Tail end of 2015 has been more challenging"

"Overall 2015 has been a good year for cherry & stonefruit," according to Jon Clark, Commercial Director for cherry & stonefruit at the UK importers Total Worldfresh.

"The start of the year saw a good back end for the 2014/15 Southern Hemisphere cherry season, with great quality and a longer season. The Summer looked to be really challenging with aggressive retail activity on cherry & stonefruit, however the stronger pound helped offset some of that challenge to deliver good sales and volume, although the grower returns longer term on stonefruit are a concern for the industry in my opinion."

The tail end of 2015 has been more challenging with a later start to the Chilean cherry season, which created a massive shortage in crop, but on the upside the South African stonefruit season has started well.

This year England had a large cherry crop, which according to Clark was beneficial to the total cherry market. "When the UK fruit is around consumption increases, which has driven a very good YOY growth."

As for new varieties the Orondo ruby cherry from Washington has been a recent success, as well as new plantings in the UK of Kasandra and the first of the UK Staccato variety, which is exclusive to Total Worldfresh, are now coming through.

"With stonefruit we are very actively involved in trial work and will determine a successful growth in the UK, and hopefully a better quality offer and season extension," explains Clark. "Internationally we have been heavily involved with a number of breeding projects, lead by our Technical Director for Stonefruit, Simon Percival, and we are seeing some great results and opportunities coming from that."

For the Northern Hemisphere imports Spain is becoming the dominant player in both cherry & stonefruit. Historically Turkey was the big source for imported cherry, but they are now the minority as new varieties and closer transit from Spain has taken over. With stonefruit Italy still plays a large part at certain times of the season.

There is a lot of planting going on around the world, however not all of this is additional crop as a large amount is re-planting and replacing older less productive varieties. "There is definitely a clear drive on a global basis to produce great tasting fruit rather than high yielding, a lot of this is driven by emerging markets and the needs to feed those, said Clark.

Clark admits that the current warm winter is a concern, however there is still three months to go of what should be cold weather to get a chill into Northern Hemisphere trees to give them good and timely crops for 2016.

The El Nino has the biggest impact in South America. Chile has suffered terribly with cherry and Clark reckons they will end up with about half of what their potential crop was going to be as they exited last winter. "We have seen increased production from Argentina, South Africa and also Australia that compensates the volume requirement."

Drought has been an issue in South Africa for many years and water management is so important for the future of not just South Africa, but all of the world.

There are many trade agreements coming into place around the world, most recently between Australia and some Asian countries but as there is very little fruit exported to the UK from Australia Clark does not think it will have an impact.

"I remember 20 years ago importing citrus, packham pears and victoria grapes from Australia – but you see very little in the UK now. So there will be no direct impact, but as one agreement opens another is not far away so as these new/emerging markets come in to play it will impact European imports as global trading is now easier and commercially they are the markets that deliver good price returns with standard requirements in terms of food safety."

For more information:
Jon Clark
Total Worldfresh
Tel: +44 1775 717180
Skype: jon.c.clark

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