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South African growers hope to survive slow blueberry market

Three years ago, few would have foreseen that blueberry prices would plunge by more than 50%, forcing many investors to the brink of collapse. Berry farmer Luan Swart of Mpumalanga explained his strategies for weathering the storm to Lindi Botha. Blueberry production has skyrocketed in South Africa in recent years, thanks to new cultivars that can be grown in a variety of climates, as well as to increasing demand for superfoods.

Blueberries take two to three years after planting to bear fruit, and Swart therefore anticipated earning a good income from his crop by 2020. “But then COVID-19 hit, disrupting markets, logistics and prices. No one could have foreseen a global pandemic that would have such a huge impact. At this point, I was very grateful we’d chosen the model we did for the farm and were able to stay afloat.”


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