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Focus on quality and brand positioning rather than volume for the moment

South Africa: Extreme drought and heat has left its mark on cherry volumes

Harvesting of the cherries for the Cherry Time brand from Dutoit will start with low volumes this week.

According to Tanith Freeman from the company, the extreme drought and heat during last summer has left its mark. This in addition to a wet, cool spring which has translated into cherries being down in volume. The season will run through to mid January.

The Cherry Time brand is now into its third year, "Every season is a challenge," explains Tanith. "The crop this season seems to be lighter than 2016 so Cherry Time volumes will be limited. It is frustrating but we want to get good traction in the market and focus on quality and the brand positioning rather than volume for the moment."

Around 40% goes to the local market. Cherry Time can also be ordered online for direct deliveries in 8 major towns in the Western Cape, Dutoit plans to extend this initiative in the future.

History of Dutoit farms

In 1890 the first small cherry orchard was planted in South Africa on the top of Gydo Pass, north of Ceres, the farm was then called Gydo but is known today as Nooitgedacht.

In 1939 the farm Gydo, in the Koue Bokkeveld was: “The largest Grower and Packer of cherries in the Union” according to the SA Fruit Exporters Directory. This area has a very high chill (>1600 RCU annually) and cool summers, it can have snow in the orchards during winter.

The farm consists of 175ha apples, 41ha pears and 32ha cherries.

This is also a very high chill area in South Africa and a big apple production area - more than 1500 RCU annually. It is also the latest area for stone fruit production.

Dutoit has invested a lot of capital in the packaging system to keep the cherries fresh without damage. The Cherry Time Zip bag is a good example.

Situated in the Ceres valley, the Dutoit Group was established in 1893 and has more than 120 years of experience in the production and distribution of superior quality fruit and vegetables.

There are currently approximately 230ha cherries planted in South Africa, 52% are in the Western Cape, mainly Ceres and Worcester area, 38% in the Free State, and the rest are mainly produced in North West and Mpumalanga.

Approximately 65% are sold to retailers and the municipal markets. About 30% is exported, mainly to the UK, and the rest is processed.

Traditional varieties are planted in colder parts of the world and require very cold winters with more than 800 hours under 7.2˚C. This means that very few areas in South Africa are appropriate. New breeding programs focus on varieties that need fewer chill hours. Dutoit has been working to establish this for 17 years and is well on their way.

For more information:
Runei Kotze
Dutoit Agri (Pty) Ltd.
Tel: +27 (0)23 312 1071