The Cherry Time™ team at Dutoit is over the moon with the quality of cherries they’re packing as the halfway mark of the cherry season approaches.
The well-known topfruit and vegetable enterprise grows approximately 2,000 tonnes of cherries per year, of which half is exported and the other half sold locally following a largely direct marketing model under the Cherry Time™ brand. Dutoit also supplies selected Pick n Pay stores, smaller retailers and the municipal markets with cherries.
“At this point in time we are moving towards the tail-end of the early varieties, and moving into the mid-season. The season has been earlier due to the heat units accumulating earlier than last year. Fruit size is up with 65% of fruit packed bigger than 24mm,” says Tanith Freeman, Dutoit product development manager.
“After a very difficult season last year, the size, firmness and high sugar content has our jaws dropping. Indeed, this season the cherries are ‘cherrific’!”
Their new 5,000 m2 packing facility has three hydro-cooling systems and a fully automated Unitec packing machine that can process eight truckloads of cherries a day, she explains. The facility can pack 6 tonnes of cherries an hour.
The packhouse staff at the opening of the packhouse (photos by Marlize de Lange)
Energy crisis creates uncertainty
Cherries are packed and ready to be shipped out within 7 hours of harvest. Their big focus early in the season is the UK, which they supply via airfreight initially, followed by seafreight to reach the market before Christmas.
“The European market, especially Germany, is developing slowly but surely,” says Gysbert du Toit, head of marketing at Dutoit Agri. “We’re busy exploring the exciting potential that the Middle East and South East Asia hold.”
The market in the UK and Europe is currently stable, but there’s much uncertainty around the impact of the electricity crisis on consumers’ buying preferences, he remarks.
“Not effortless to grow”
“Last week the final volumes of Royal Tioga, Royal Hazel and Royal Lynn were picked, followed by the first Royal Dawn and volumes will remain strong,” she says.
She adds: “While cherries are easy to love, they are not effortless to grow.”
Recent rain accompanied by hail in the Witzenberg Mountains three weeks ago hasn’t dampened their spirits.
“The good news is that the cherries are safely protected under nets and afterwards blowers were running till late into the night to dry the cherries. Thankfully the rain was from thundershowers which means the summer temperatures did not drop and fruit quality will not be adversely affected.”
The first commercial cherry plantings took place in 1989 on Nooitgedacht, one of Dutoit’s cherry farms (and one of the largest in the country) making these trees the oldest commercial cherry trees in South Africa.
Johan Grobler, head of fruit packing at Dutoit, with Gys du Toit (head of Western Cape production), Jan Rossouw (estate manager) and Dutoit Agri's CEO Willem Coetzee