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Less South African lychees due to drought

Lychee remains end of year exotic

The weather conditions around the Indian Ocean were positive for the growth of lychees. The expectations for the season in the European market are positive, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t any challenges in the various producing countries. We asked three importers about the market situation. Halls bv, with its headquarters in South Africa, sells the South African lychees on the European market. Special Fruit has a year-round supply from various countries.

Less South African lychees due to drought
“We have 100 hectares of own plantations in South Africa,” says Gregoire Vicherat of the Rungis branch of Halls bv. The originally South African company manages the entire chain, from cultivation to packaging, ripening and distribution of subtropical fruit. The lychee plantations can be found in Nelspruit, east of Johannesburg, and Tzaneen, in the north of South Africa. In addition to the own plantations, Halls also markets other growers’ produce. "Annually, we export around 300,000 boxes. Within South Africa we are the biggest exporter of lychees.”

The South African season starts in December and lasts until February. “The expectations aren’t good,” Gregoire continues. “There’s been a dry, hot period in South Africa, which influenced the harvest. A large part of the harvest will be unsuitable for export, and we’re expecting small sizes. That’s why we’re anticipating a smaller volume with high prices, around three euros per kilo.”

The biggest markets for the lychees within Europe are France and Germany. In addition, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are reasonable markets for the lychees, but these countries lag behind France and Germany in terms of volume. “The lychee is still a true exotic, it’s still an unknown product for most consumers.”

Year-round supply; lychee becomes more well-known
Belgian importer Special Fruit saw the market for lychees increase sharply last year. “The volumes are growing immensely,” says Lieve Michielsen. “In 2014, we sold more than double the volume of 2013.” For this year, they’re also reckoning with growth. According to the Belgian trader, the lychee is an exotic that’s finding its way into stores more and more. “The lychee is getting more well-known, especially compared to its hairy cousin, the rambutan, it’s become a lot more well-known, and can’t really be called an exotic anymore. The lychee is also very healthy, and a lot is being written about it.”

From various parts of the world, lychees are supplied. “The main countries we import from are South Africa, Madagascar, Thailand and Mauritius,” Lieve says. “The lychees mostly arrive by plane throughout the year. In December and January though, there is also supply from overseas, from Madagascar and South Africa.”

Although Special Fruit offers the lychees year-round, Lieve does see a huge peak in December. “It’s still a typical end of year exotic of course, but particularly in wholesale, it’s getting a permanent position in the product range.” Depending on the client and the period, the lychees are supplied in various packagings: bulk, punnets or nets.

More information:
Halls bv
Gregoire Vicherat

Special Fruit
Lieve Michielsen
[email protected]