Good volumes South African lychee expected

The South African lychee season is looking positive so far, with good volumes expected to follow on from an excellent flowering season.

For South African lychee and avocado producer, Afrupro, the set is looking good. The season still has some way to go before harvesting can start, and the outcome will depend on the rainfall during the rest of the season, as it has been a very dry year so far.

Afrupro is located in the North East of the country, where their producers have 120 hectares planted at the moment. The varieties grown include Mauritius, the MacLean variety and a small area of Wai Chee, a Chinese variety that is becoming more popular in the Northern part of South Africa due to the later harvest time.

The Wai Chee variety is expected to be harvested around mid-February, according to Bram Snijder, the production manager for Afrupro. “It has more of an orangey-red colour than the Mauritius, which is more of a brownish red, and the MacLean which is pure red. It is also a high yielding variety, with dwarfing trees, which is very attractive to growers. Because it’s a later variety we are hoping that by the end of the season the market will be emptier and our growers will be able to realize good prices for it.”

The first picking in the early harvest areas is expected in week 45 or 46, Bram predicts this based on historic data and the current weather situation. “We at Afrupro are looking at starting harvesting around week 48/49. We are always slightly later than the Malelane area.”

The lychee season can stretch for almost 10 to 12 weeks when all cultivars are taken into consideration. The biggest competitor for the South African lychee is Madagascar. They tend to start producing just before Afrupro, with the first vessel off-loading in Europe in around week 51 and usually continue until around week 3 or 4, slightly before the Northern areas of South Africa land the first containers, which tends to take the tail end of the season in Europe.

Bram expects the South African volumes to be larger this year. “We are looking at a very good crop this season. We expect between 4 and 600 tons of the Mauritius variety from the Tzaneen area to go to Europe. 400 tons of the MacLean variety is also expected from the same area.”

These amounts are much higher than those of the previous year, when the harvest was quite low.

The Malelane area is slightly down compared to last year, as they had a very difficult flowering season.

The good volume this year is partially due to the natural cycle of the plants, as the Northern part of the country has had two quite poor years in a row. In the Malelane region they have just had three good seasons and so a lesser season was expected.
Around 10% of Afrupro’s plantations are new trees that are currently coming into production. There is a renewed interest in the later varieties of lychees which might expand the season into Europe with good volumes into February and early March.
The demand in Europe is growing, according to Bram. “I think people are actually starting to appreciate the lychee in Europe more and more and that’s good news for us as it means we can increase our production. Currently 99% goes to Europe, with the other 1% being flown out to the Middle East. It’s still a limited market, but there is increasing interest. In the near future the Middle East may be an attractive alternative to Europe. The first trial shipments will also be exported to the USA as we recently gained full access to that market.”

At the moment South Africa doesn’t have access to Asia, but work is being done to open the Chinese market.

For more information:
Bram Snijder
Tel: +27 15 307 7096

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