South Africa's blueberry season will kick off in a few months, and farmers are determined to bounce back after a challenging 2022. The country usually exports berries (including blueberries) to the value of about R3 billion each year. According to Brent Walsh, CEO of producer organization Berries ZA, the biggest knock for SA's blueberry farmers last year was a two-week strike at Transnet ports during the peak export period of November. The strike impacted the ability to get the blueberries to market on time, affecting pricing and quality on arrival.
On top of that, farmers had to deal with steep increases in agriculture input costs like diesel and fertilizer. The extent of the impact of SA's energy crisis on the blueberry industry is still being determined, says Walsh.
"Our farmers are moving towards new varieties to shift high-quality blueberries earlier into the season or later, depending on which markets they want to approach and to optimize the price. Improving yield is also very important," says Walsh, adding that Berries ZA is working with Transnet to try to ensure that blueberry exports will go smoothly this season.