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Growers excited to send their pears where their apples have been going

South African fruit industry ‘ecstatic’ about long-awaited pear access to China

South African growers and exporters are more than ready to serve the Chinese market, Hortgro, the governing body of the South African Deciduous Fruit Industry, said yesterday as it announced that South African pears now have access to China, joining South African apples there.

The pear protocol was signed and access agreed upon by the Chinese Minister of General Administration of Customs China in November 2021 after Covid restrictions had held up the signing of the protocol for over a year.

“We look forward to much closer, mutually beneficial, working relationships with the Chinese authorities in order to expedite market access between the two countries in much shorter time frames in future,” Jacques du Preez, Hortgro General Manager: Trade and Markets, noted. “We are absolutely ecstatic that we have finally concluded this process that started many years ago.”

South African apples gained access to China six years ago (the fruit industry had initially expected apples and pears to gain simultaneous access).

It's not just the topfruit industry overjoyed at the signing of the protocol: a queue of other South African commodities have been waiting for pear access to be concluded.

Next up are South African avocados. The process to conclude an avocado protocol started a year ago when the pear protocol was finalised, and Chinese authorities have started with the pest risk assessment.

South African stonefruit will be considered when the avocado protocol has been finalised.

South African apples have paved the way for pears in China
A good 2022 pear crop is expected, starting in early January with the early Bon Chretien (Williams) pears. The peak pear crop is harvested from February to April.

South African cultivar Cheeky, an early blush pear

According to the pear industry, Chinese demand would be for traditional Packham pears as well as Forelle pears and perhaps Cheeky, an early blush pear.

“We are very excited after the long wait and it will be a further boost to the pear category which has been performing well over the past two years,” observes Gysbert du Toit, marketing manager at Dutoit Agri, a major topfruit producer.

“It’s a very big opportunity for South Africa, especially because we already have apple access so we already have the trade network and client profile. My feeling is that we’ll get quicker traction on pears than we did on apples.”

He confirms that they will be sending pears to China in the next season. “We have pears, like Packhams and Forelle, available from March until November, depending on market conditions. We can supply pears for a long period.”

Hannes Pienaar of Wolfpack pear packers in Wolseley, whose orchards and packhouse have also been registered for China for the upcoming season, shares in the excitement and notes that they will use 2022 to test the market.

"I expect bi-colour pears (Cheeky and Forelle) will be in demand, but I hope there's an opportunity for Packhams as it would really help to have an alternative market for Packhams," he says. 

Tremendous growth in pear exports to the East
According to Du Preez, 22% of SA pear exports in 2021 went to the Far East and Asian markets where there has been healthy growth over the past five years.

“We view the Chinese market as crucial to the sustainability and further growth of our pear industry. We have experienced tremendous growth in exports to other Eastern nations and now we can supply Chinese consumers with our delicious pears as well,” he added.

This year the South African apple and pear industry launched a market development campaign for apples in China which will now also include pears.