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Jon Clark - Total Worldfresh
Unusual transition to Southern Hemisphere supply
"In general the change of hemispheres has not been “normal”. The late season Angeleno plum crop across the whole of Europe was significantly reduced this year. Traditionally this fruit is sold in the UK until late December and often with several retailers into January," explains Clark. "However, as a result of a lighter crop, availability has been more limited, although supply will continue. The change into Southern Hemisphere plums is happening earlier than normal with a number of people changing from early to mid December."
With cherries, there is normally a gap in supply between the hemispheres but this year it has been a little longer than normal according to Clark. South Africa have had an early cherry season, Australia too, but supply is limited from those sources. The key European source is Chile, which as a result of the El Nino weather pattern has seen a delay to its crop of up to two weeks. In addition to that overall yields are expected to be significantly lower this year – to a degree the decrease in volume has been offset a little by the increase in new trees coming in to production. Chile accounts for approximately 90% of the Southern Hemisphere cherry volume, so any change there impacts on the global market.
"Chile is still very dependant on three main varieties of cherry, Bing, Lapin and Sweetheart. However in recent years we have seen more plantings of varieties like Kordia and Regina so that mix will change. In addition to the red cherry, Chile also produce a fantastic Rainier cherry," said Clark.
With cherries a reduced yield per tree generally means an increase in fruit size, which presents a problem for the UK as most of the requirement is for small/medium sized fruit. It is good for growers as the larger size attract higher values from the strong Asian market where around 80% of the Chilean volume is exported too.
"Quality is good, but all growers are monitoring the weather as rain in the next 4 weeks could spell disaster for the majority of growers, and this year the probability of rain is higher," explains Clark. "Total Worldfresh and two of it’s exporters have slightly less concern as a large part of their orchards now have rain protection, something that is not common place in Chile." Despite a lower yield, and a smaller crop, and strong markets, we feel this could be a good season overall.
As for stonefruit there is a good plum crop from South Africa which has meant fruit size in general is down slightly. Peaches and nectarines look to be normal and apricot are larger in size with a lighter fruit set.
The stonefruit sourcing from Chile on plums is predominately around Angeleno for late season, with the rest being covered with fruit from South Africa, there has also been a reduction in nectarines in recent years as South Africa extend their season and varietal range. There are some excellent varietal developments happening in South Africa which will brighten up the category in the coming years and Total Worldfresh are pleased to be associated with those.
The UK is becoming a less desirable market for growers. Asia and the Middle East are giving better grower returns so a higher percentage of crops are going to those markets to allow growers to achieve a return on investment and be able to continue putting money back in to the farms for the next generation/era, concludes Clark. That said, most growers recognise that they need to have a balance of different receiving markets to manage fruit size, variety and to give them a balance of risk in their own business.
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