Berry farming is capital intensive and export orientated. It is also labour intensive, and so has been championed as a crop of national interest by government for its employment and earner of foreign exchange potential.

Berries are sold as fresh produce, and so the post harvest process from the field to the customer plays a vital role. Prompt cooling after picking is important. The cold chain must be strictly applied, because any temperature variation will result in condensation of moisture on the fruit with subsequent increase in decay.

Handling requirements for berries differ and there is no way one set of handling requirements can be given. Suffice it to say that they are very delicate fruits and must be handled with the utmost care.

Berries are consumed as fruit, and also used as products for juice, jam, yoghurt preserves and liqueur.

Source: Trevor McKenzie and www.southafrica.info [website not working September 2019

The Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) in its Fresh Fruit Export Directory includes pomegranates along with blueberries and raspberries under the category “Exotic fruit”. Although there are references to pomegranate role players, mostly this page deals with berries. Readers are directed to the Pomegranate Association of South Africa (POMASA) (details under the “Role players” heading) and its website www.sapomegranate.co.za for information on pomegranates.

International business environment

Find the FreshPlaza Overiew of the global blueberry market (2019) at www.freshplaza.com/article/9060165/overview-global-blueberry-market/.

Some websites

South Africa: imports and exports

As berries are largely an export crop, other challenges include the cost of freight and competition from South America. Historically, most berry exports go to the United Kingdom and Europe.

There are two reasons why South Africa is well-placed to tap into the Northern Hemisphere markets:

  1. We have a range of climates suitable for berry-growing.
  2. We have a strategic advantage in the fact that we are out of season.

The value of blueberry exports grew from R133-million in 2013 to just over R1-billion in 2018 (Liedtke, 2019).

Kotzé (2019) laments the delay in the processing of export protocols, which means South Africa is missing out on supplying the Chinese market. Currently Peru and Chile, the top global exporters of berries, have this Chinese market to themselves.

The exporting of fruit is subject to compliance with certain quality requirements and obtaining a Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) export certificate. Find more information about berry exports in the FPEF’s latest Export Directory (see “Websites & publications” heading).

Local business environment

The South African Berry Producers Association (Sabpa) expects South Africa’s blueberry production to reach a record high of 17 000 t in 2019, up from the 11 300 t produced in 2018. It expects production to increase further to 50 000 t/y by 2023 and says this will help to grow employment in the sector from 8 000 to 14 000 (Liedtke, 2019).

Both the local and export marketing of fruit are free from government intervention.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)’s “Abstract of Agricultural Statistics” has a category “strawberries and other berries”; statistics relating to production, gross value, sales on markets and purchases for processing will be found here. Find DALRRD publications under the “Resource Centre” menu option on www.daff.gov.za.

National strategy and government contact

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) www.daff.gov.za

  • Directorate: Plant Health Tel: 012 319 6091 KgaboMa [at] daff.gov.za
  • Directorate: Food Safety and Quality Assurance Tel: 012 319 6231 / 018 / 023
  • Directorate: International Trade Tel: 012 319 8452 DITR [at] daff.gov.za

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has the Alternative Crops Fund (ACF) – R3 million per annum – to boost exports and bolster land reform. Alternative, smaller crops include berries and pomegranates. These crops have high market value and are export-orientated. Alternative crops are mostly water smart and would therefore be preferred crops against the current, and most probable, dryer and even continued drought conditions in the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa. Promoting alternative crops is also one of the proposed actions of the SmartAgri plan. See www.elsenburg.com.

Role players

 

Associations and statutory bodies

  • Intensive Growers Association (IGA) Tel: 032 814 0150 http://intensivegrowers.co.za
  • Pomegranate Association of South Africa (POMASA) Tel: 021 870 2900 www.sapomegranate.co.za
  • South African Berry Producers Association c/o HORTGRO Tel: 021 870 2900 www.saberries.co.za
  • Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) Tel: 021 526 0474 www.fpef.co.za
  • The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) is the official certification agency that ensures quality in the supply chain. Call 021 930 1134 or visit www.ppecb.com 
  • South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Tel: 012 428 7911 www.sabs.co.za

 

Finance

Find further bodies in the “Finance for new farmers and SMMEs” and “Providers of financial services” articles.

 

Companies and growers

Several of the farms listed below supply berries as fresh fruit and value adds like berry jam … but also have offerings like group/school visits, accommodation, spas and events like a Raspberry Festival!

 

Training and research

  • ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij Tel: 021 809 3100 www.arc.agric.za
  • ARC-Plant Protection Research (PPR) Charnie Craemer: acarologist (mite specialist) CraemerC [at] arc.agric.za Research on and identification of plant feeding mite pests. Several species of the Eriophyoidea (e.g., bud mites) are important pests of several currants and berries world-wide.
  • Stellenbosch University Department of Horticultural Science Tel 021 808 4900 www.sun.ac.za/horticulture
  • University of the Free State Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences Tel: 051 401 2212 www.ufs.ac.za

Websites and publications

Refer to websites listed earlier on this page.

  • The exotic fruit category of the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) export directory covers blueberries, raspberries and pomegranates. Download the latest one at https://fpef.co.za.
  • The Abstract of Agricultural Statistics on www.daff.gov.za , website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, includes information on “Strawberries and other berries: Production, gross value, sales on markets and purchases for processing”. There is a grower guide for strawberries under “Brochures and production guidelines”. Find also the annual Statistics on fresh produce markets, which gives an exposition of the mass, value and unit value of the sales of fruit at each of the national fresh produce markets, month by month. Find the publications under the “Resource Centre” option.
  • TradeProbe 69 (2018, May) looks at persimmon fruit, an exotic fruit and niche market.
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] arc.agric.za for the following publications, available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering: (i) Agro-processing of Berries, Volume 1 (Blackberries; Blackcurrent; Blueberries; Cape Gooseberries; Cherries) (ii) Agro-processing of Berries, Volume 2 (Gooseberries; Raspberries; Redcurrants; Strawberries).
  • Find the guides on processing blackberries, strawberries, black currants, raspberries, Cape-gooseberries, blueberries, gooseberries and cherries at www.eskom.co.za/sites/idm/Business/Pages/Agriprocessingberries.aspx.
  • Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry are dealt with in the publication “Fruit and nut production in KZN”, which can be downloaded on the KZN Department of Agriculture website at www.kzndard.gov.za/resource-centre/guideline-documents
  • Find the guides for growing strawberries, blueberries and other berries at www.growveg.co.za.
  • Find the strawberry grower guide on the Haifa website at www.haifa-group.com.
  • Download the Afrikaans grower guide on blueberries at www.saberries.co.za/landbou-weekblad-wil-jy-bloubessies-plant/.

 

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