Subtrop marketing symposium 2023

USA is great for South African litchis and India would be the same for avocados

The annual Subtrop (the umbrella body for the avocado, mango and litchi industries) symposium took place in White River today, at which Bernd Julicher of Agrilink explained why the USA, and specifically its Asian and Mexican communities, render the country so attractive to South African litchi exporters.

Right: Emmaculate Malashe from Mafube Fresh

Mango grower Jaco Fivaz of Mohlatsi Farm has been researching the dried mango industry worldwide, the many new drying facilities opening and presented some frank opinions on the subject to the symposium.

He believes mango drying cannot substitute for the importance of fresh exports.

FreshPlaza will cover their presentations in more depth in coming days.

Dr Mono Mashaba (right), market development specialist, recounted the high drama on the eve of the signing of the recent avocado protocol with China.

It took many midnight phone calls to unnamed but very strategically placed figures to prevent the long-awaited signing from being postponed by an overzealous lawyer acting for the South African state.

Now India needs to open for South African avocados, the symposium was told by the World Avocado Organisation's consultants in India where celebrity chef Sanjev Kapoor has been championing the fruit among the 400 million Indian citizens deemed potential avocado consumers.

He started the Avocado Ki Patshala, the School of Avocados, to share basic avocado handling, ripening, peeling and eating information with his fans. The level of ripeness of avocados marketed in India and its shelf life will have to be given careful consideration.

Interestingly, in UK supermarkets, avocados are grouped with salad items, while it's more often sold as a fruit in Spain, France and Germany (the four countries where WAO spends much of its resources).

Avocados are still mainly purchased singly (unlike in South Africa; see below).

Conversations around avocados, and specifically their sustainability, gained traction in European media as the World Avocado Organisation sets itself the task of 'debunking the myths', pointing out that beef, coffee and cocoa use much more water.

In 2024 WAO's Fruit for Life campaign will be replaced by a fresh approach.

Domestic avocado consumption was investigated by Mariëtte Erasmus (right), with a focus on retail. South Africans buying avocados in supermarkets prefer two pack packaging and they're still leaning more toward greenskinned avocados which they've known for longer.

As attendees pointed out, wholesale and grade 3 avocados supply a large part of the market (and there was a significant portion grade 3 this past season) which was not reflected in her consumer research.

Limpopo income from subtropical fruit quadrupled
Subtropical fruit exports have been particularly beneficial to Limpopo Province where such exports quadrupled over the past couple of years with the surge in avocado and macadamia trade, the symposium was told by Emile du Plessis of Standard Bank.

Subtrop marketing symposium 2023

The world recently learned the acronym BRICS - long considered a moribund concept among the South African industry wishing it would convey some tangible benefits.

Wolfe Braude of Agbiz attended the recent summit (Russia chairs the bloc next year) and told how agriculture has finally made it to the BRICS agenda and that, perhaps, market access applications among member states might in future be concurrently processed instead of in a queuing system.

He noted that access to fertilisers, maximum residue levels and phytosanitary issues, market access and financing for sustainability emerged as top of mind among members in the agriculture working group chaired by Wandile Sihlobo, also from Agbiz.

On the topic of South African logistics, Braude updated attendees on the national logistics crisis committee whose road map is due to be approved by cabinet shortly; the private sector wishes to assist Transnet, the national port authority, in emergency procurement and financing of items like straddle carriers and fork lifts. He's confident a "massive sea change' is coming on logistics.

Martin de Kock of Bet-el Fruit, Hans Boyum of Westfalia, André van Ellinckhuijzen and Carel Niewoudt, also from Bet-el Fruit

FreshPlaza will cover these topics and others in future reports on Subtrop's 2023 marketing symposium.

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