Introduction

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

The Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) in its Fresh Fruit Export Directory includes pomegranates and cherries 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.

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International business environment

Read the latest Fresh Plaza overviews of the global market for the different berries and exotic fruit at www.freshplaza.com.

 

Further reference:

South Africa: imports and exports

As berries are largely an export crop, challenges include applying the cold chain, the cost of freight and competition from South America. Historically, most berry exports go to the United Kingdom and Europe. Improving market access to the Far East “remains a key focus area for the industry in order to spread risk and further grow in value” (BFAP, 2021).

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.

Mudge (2020) writes that expanding into markets like the Chinese one could create an additional 12 000 jobs in South Africa, more or less double the projected employment in the industry by 2023. To improve on these export figures and create more jobs in the post Covid-19 environment, certain conditions will need to be met:

  • Firstly, expanding market access into demand markets is a priority.
  • Secondly, air freight out of the country needs to be increased, vital for commodities like berries which have a short shelf life.

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 Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF)‘s latest Export Directory and in the annual Food Trade SA publication from PPECB (see “Websites & publications” heading).

 

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Local business environment

Over half of all South African berries are produced in the Western Cape (51%), followed by Limpopo (20%), KwaZulu-Natal (12%) and North West (9%). Statistics from BerriesZA suggest that blueberries are the largest cultivated berry in the country (BFAP, 2021).

72% of South Africa’s blueberries are destined for export markets; frozen berries account for 15% while the local market (for fresh consumption) is responsible for 13%.

In 2020 South Africa exported 18 000 tonnes of blueberries, a new industry record, with export revenue of well over R1-billion. This growth has led to an equally significant growth in employment opportunities. Employment in the industry had shot up from about 1 000 jobs in 2014 to around 8 000 by 2020 (Mudge, 2020).

Source: Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline 2021-2030; www.freshplaza.com/article/9206949/south-african-blueberry-boom-continues-with-53-increase-in-exports

 

National strategy and government contact

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

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

 

Finance

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

 

Companies and growers

The annual Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) directory gives details of companies which export berries and exotic fruit. Find it at https://fpef.co.za.

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
  • Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) www.bfap.co.za BFAP is developing a sector and farm model for blueberries and projections will be included in the 2022 baseline
  • Stellenbosch University (SU) Department of Horticultural Science Tel 021 808 4900 www.sun.ac.za/horticulture
  • SU Postharvest Technology Research Laboratory Tel: 021 808 4921 viljoenm [at] sun.ac.za
  • 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 annual Food Trade SA publication from PPECB can be read at https://ppecb.com/documents.
  • The Abstract of Agricultural Statistics on www.dalrrd.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.
  • 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).
  • CD Roms from the ARC-Plant Protection Research (PPR) include: Crop Pests, vol. 1: Deciduous Fruit, Grapes and Berries. Write to booksales [at] arc.agric.za or infopri [at] arc.agric.za.
  • Consult the AgriSETA Learner Guide Primary Agriculture “Harvesting agricultural crops“.
  • 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
  • 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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