South Africa’s fresh food exports have grown significantly in recent years due to their diversity, efficient production, and competitiveness in the global market. At the top are citrus fruits, table grapes, apples, and pears, followed immediately by avocados.
With the exception of avocados, other fruits emerged from a tightly regulated environment 20 years ago and can now benefit from the thriving open market. But to stay competitive, they rely on a well-organized supply chain.
Everything is operating normally on most farms, with the exception of the Kirkwood area of Sundays River Valley, where mobs burned buildings and equipment apparently in a wage dispute last week. Apart from this violence, the biggest challenges farmers face are elsewhere. For SA, ports and shipping are the biggest obstacles.
The world of South Africa’s citrus and other fruit industries has changed radically over the last two years. The war between Covid and Ukraine had a negative effect. The Eastern European market has been lost. Increased costs for fuel, fertilizer, cargo, and other necessities. The logistics chain is unstable. According to the National Agricultural Marketing Council, citrus fruits account for the largest share of exported fruits at 40.8%, with oranges accounting for 21.4%. This is followed by edible grapes (14.7%) and apples (12.4%). Overall, the top 10 fruits exported from South Africa account for 84.1% of the total fruit trade.
According to Hannes de Waal, the new chair of the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA), the rise in shipping fares are the biggest threat to the industry.
He had even attended the world’s biggest fresh produce event, Fruit Logistica, in Berlin in April. Several delegates had expressed their concerns regarding the availability of containers, shipping opportunities, and shipping schedules.
This situation is similar in other major fruit export sectors as well.