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Plum On A White

Cautiously optimistic outlook for 2021/22 SA stone fruit season

By Jacques du Preez

After an unexpected, but welcome, increase in stone fruit production during the previous season, especially the plum industry is anticipating export volumes that are in line with the 2021/22 season. Normality has returned after the drought years that distorted reference points and preceding the big increase of the 2020/21 season.

It’s still early days as many cultivars are in bloom now (mid-October) but at this stage, the industry is expecting fruit packed for the export market to range between 15 – 16.5 million cartons (5.25kg equivalents). This relates to the same crop as last year with an 8% increase on the upper end, depending on how the season plays out. Stone fruit growers experienced a good winter and a very mild to cool spring thus far. The potential increase is primarily driven by new orchards coming into production.  Growers have been sensitized to proper thinning practices to ensure good fruit size, as the market for smaller fruit is limited.

For nectarine exports, an increase of 9%, to 7.1 million cartons (2.5kg equivalents), is expected. Similar to plums, there are a number of new nectarine orchards resulting in continued export volume growth.

Peach volumes are expected to be the same as in 2020/21 at 2.45 million cartons (2.5kg equivalents). In recent years, dessert peach orchards have seen a decline in total areas planted.

After the bounce-back of the previous season, apricot volumes are also expected to be the same or slightly down on the 2020/21 season. Apricot hectares have also experienced a decline in recent years.

Logistics will remain a challenge, as is the reality worldwide, but with the experience gained in the last 18 months in managing challenges, the industry will again facilitate and coordinate actions, and exchange fruit information between key stakeholders. South Africa will therefore remain a reliable and stable supplier of stone fruit to all its export markets.

The crop estimates will be updated regularly as the season progresses. Hortgro will also publish per cultivar information in the next 3 to 4 weeks as the fruit set settles and a clearer picture of the coming season appears. But we are looking forward to a good crop across all the stone fruit types, weather permitting!

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