In southern Africa, the blueberry market is poised for recovery, offering potential benefits to South African farmers amid a slowdown in blueberry production in Peru, the global leader in blueberry exports. Over the past two years, South African producers faced challenges with low prices that impacted their competitiveness. However, the upcoming 2023-2024 season holds promise for the country, aligning with Peru's season, which commences around June as the northern hemisphere concludes its season.
Brent Walsh, the general director of Berries ZA, representing South Africa's soft fruit sector, notes that market demand has driven up prices, presenting a positive outlook for the season. Despite being a modest producer compared to Peru, with 30,000 tonnes of blueberries produced last year, South Africa has been expanding its sector since 2017, primarily exporting to the European Union and the United Kingdom.
However, challenges persist for the South African market. Unfavorable weather conditions, particularly high humidity, pose difficulties. Port obstructions, notably at Durban, continue to impede maritime exports, leading to increased reliance on air transport and heightened preservation costs.
Furthermore, the country faces a slowdown in crop development, mirroring a similar situation in neighboring Zimbabwe. While favorable weather conditions near Harare attract investors, including those from South Africa, the economic and monetary crisis in Zimbabwe poses financing challenges that could potentially hinder the sector's growth.
Despite these challenges, the positive market conditions and increased prices signal a potential recovery for South African blueberry farmers, highlighting the resilience of the industry in navigating both global and local obstacles.