During the month of July SASPA & HORTGRO hosted a series of roadshows in an effort to prepare strategically for the future of the industry and to optimise market development.
The roadshow kicked off in Franschhoek, followed by events in Ceres, Robertson, the Langkloof and Modimolle.
“One of the goals of this roadshow is to get a roadmap for the next ten years,” said Jacques du Preez, HORTGRO Marketing and Export Manager. “As an industry we have major challenges ahead, of which climate change is just one. We have to better prepare strategically for the future, since the stone fruit industry has so many facets it is often seen as fragmented and we need to work together to ensure optimum market development .”
Du Preez said growers need to take control of their fruit at every section of the value chain. “The fruit is not just your responsibility when it is in the orchard and is being picked. It stays your fruit until it reaches its destination. You have to know what is happening to it, every step of the way.”
Stone fruit growing is a huge and long term investment. Planting costs could easily be R400 000/ha with orchards lasting up to 30 years. On the other side, consumer preferences can change very quickly. Therefore you have to start your business with the consumer in mind. Know what they want to eat and produce that fruit.
According to Du Preez quality and the right cultivars are the two things that matter most. “If we can ensure good quality fruit we don’t have to be scared of other southern hemisphere fruit producers like Chile. Our eating quality is our biggest trump card. But quality needs to be consistent.”
He urged growers to choose cultivars wisely and to make sure that there is a market out there for the fruit. “There is currently concerns that we have too many nectarine cultivars on the market and we have to ask ourselves, is this not too much? Are we not confusing consumers?
Du Preez said the stone fruit industry has to prepare for the future as climate change can alter the stone industry dramatically. “Current trends indicate that wine grapes are being replaced by plum and citrus orchards in Klein Karoo and Worcester area. We have to prepare for this and as an industry have a strategy ready.”
For instance, if we want to increase consumption of plums in Europe we need to come up with a ready-to-eat plum. We have to get our cultivars right, and produce the plums that our sophisticated markets want to eat.
SASPA Chairman, Andre Smit, echoed Du Preez and said that growers should become involved and informed. Make sure you know what is happening with cultivar development.
“There is still good money to be made from producing stone fruit. The time for producing average or below-average products has gone. It is all about quality and consistency and the eating experience for the consumer. SA fruit is still held in high regard for its excellent taste experience.”
Smit also warned growers who were gambling with their future if they do not comply with global gap and MRL requirements. There is zero tolerance in the market for non-compliance. Make sure your chemical advisor knows his game and gives you the right advice.
He also urged growers to support the SIZA ethical trade initiative and said that every grower has to support the transformation process and share their knowledge with new era growers.
I believe that there are still golden years ahead for the SA stone fruit industry. There are fantastic opportunities and I am confident that we are going to experience a growth period over the next 5 to 10 years.
- Economic Crystalballing:
Dawie Maree, FNB Head of Information and Marketing, shared some of his thoughts about agriculture in SA during the roadshow:
- “Our economy is not in a good space. Business confidence is declining. Worldwide, and also in South Africa, the number of farming units are declining. The financial world looks at tractor sales as an indicator of the economic health of the agricultural sector, and since 2012 tractor sales have steadily declined.
- “Storm clouds are gathering in SA with massive labour unrest, lack of leadership, ongoing poverty, crime and corruption, government policy uncertainty, climate change challenges, water security and soil loss.
- “There are some unanswered questions: How will the weather play out? How will legislation change? How will politics influence the market value of farmland?
- “However we, as a bank, still see agriculture as a good investment opportunity. It won’t be smooth sailing and there are a lot of the economic uncertainties – and they will be with us for some time to come. But, we are still positive about agriculture and will continue to invest heavily in this industry. Even though it is generally thought the average age of the South African farmer is 63, we see a lot of young people moving into agriculture, and for us, that is always good sign.”