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.
International business environment
Read the latest Fresh Plaza overviews of the global market for the different berries and exotic fruit at www.freshplaza.com.
- International Blueberry Organisation, www.internationalblueberry.org
- www.driscolls.com – “Only the finest berries”
- http://noursefarms.com – “The Best Berry Plants since 1932”
- www.pickyourown.org – where you can find a pick-your-own farm near you (USA website)
- www.raspberries.us – an extensive source of information on raspberries
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. Some 5% goes to markets in the Far East (Mudge, 2020).
There are two reasons why South Africa is well-placed to tap into the Northern Hemisphere markets:
- We have a range of climates suitable for berry-growing.
- 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 FPEF‘s latest Export Directory and in the annual Food Trade SA publication from PPECB (see “Websites & publications” heading).
Local business environment
In the 2019/2020 financial year, South Africa exported 12,282 tons of blueberries. This represents a 53,5% increase on the previous year’s 8,000 tons, a new industry record.
Almost 70% of South Africa’s blueberries are destined for export markets. Since 2013 this has led to a growth in export revenues from R133 million to well over R1 billion.
This growth has led to an equally significant growth in employment opportunities. Employment in the industry more than quadrupled from about 1 000 jobs in 2014 to more than 5 700 in 2018. This number has since risen to more than 8 000 jobs in the past two years.
Read the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report “South African Blueberry Industry Continues Strong Growth” (June 30, 2020).
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.
Associations and statutory bodies
- Berries Joint Marketing Forum (BJMF), a partnership between the FPEF and SABPA.
- Berries ZA www.saberries.co.za
- Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) Tel: 021 526 0474 www.fpef.co.za
- Hortgro Tel: 021 870 2900 www.hortgro.co.za
- 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
- 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
- Amathole Economic Development Agency Tel: 043 721 2070 www.aspire.org.za
- Fedgroup www.fedgroup.co.za Invests in blueberry, honey and urban solar farms
- Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Tel: 011 269 3000 www.idc.co.za
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!
- Agrifusion johannes [at] agrifusion.co.za www.agrifusion.co.za exotic fruit expert
- Agrobot Robotic Harvesters http://agrobot.com Robotic strawberry harvesters (Watch “Agrobot” on YouTube)
- Alternafruit Tel: 021 872 8463 www.alternafruit.co.za
- Amathole Berries (Pty) Ltd Tel: 043 782 0610 www.amatholeberries.co.za
- Berry Farm Tel: 056 811 3966 http://berry-farm.co.za
- Berry Growers Nurseries Consulting https://phcstrawberries.co.za
- Berrynice Berry Company Tel: 087 550 1184 www.berrynice.co.za
- Berryworld SA Tel: 021 808 6641 www.berryworld.com
- Blue Mountain Berries (BMB) Tel: 044 876 0131 Read the article “A berry good investment for South Africa”
- Blueberry Heights Tel: 083 880 8787 http://blueberryheights.co.za
- Bon-Af Berry Farm Tel: 056 811 3966 http://berry-farm.co.za
- BronPro Tel: 071 659 3642 http://bronpro.co.za
- Cappeny Estates Tel: 032 815 1168 www.cappenyestates.com Strawberry grower
- Corefruit Tel: 021 863 6300 www.corefruit.com Pomegranate exporter
- Creation Fruit Tel: 028 314 0035 Pomegranate exporter
- DaisyFresh Hydroponics Tel: 031 767 2096 / 083 400 0033 http://hydroponicssouthafrica.co.za
- Denbi Tel: 058 303 2149 www.denbi.com
- DKI Fruit Marketing Tel: 021 855 4888 http://dkifruit.co.za
- Dole SA Tel: 021 914 0600 http://dolesa.co.za
- Dreammaker Fruits Tel: 022 931 8500 jeankotze [at] dreammaker.co.za www.winterwood.co.uk Blueberries and raspberries are grown on South African farms for this UK-based company.
- Eurafruit SA (Pty) Limited Trevor McKenzie: Director Tel: 021 808 6640/1 A solid base of South African growers has been built up for export to the UK, with Eurafruit providing the necessary technical back up as well as the marketing of all fruit and co-ordinating the sales logistics.
- Euroberry Tel: 0860 400 407 www.euroberry.co.za
- Fall Creek Nursery South Africa Wian Mouton wianm [at] fallcreeknursery.com
- Favourite Fresh Export Tel: 021 880 6626 www.ffesa.co.za
- Franschhoek Marketing 021 876 3141 www.freshnessfirst.co.za
- Freshgold SA Exports 021 555 1966 www.freshgoldsa.co.za
- Freshworld Tel: 021 808 7100 www.freshworld.co.za Exporter
- Fyvie Farming Tel: 058 622 2953 http://fyviefarming.co.za
- Garden of Eden Berries https://phcstrawberries.co.za
- Goldee Trading 2 011 848 9950
- Haygrove Heaven Tel: 021 859 1026 www.haygrove.co.za
- Mooiberge Farm Tel: 021 881 3222
- Mountain Breeze Farm Tel: 021 880 1700
- New Vision Fruit Tel: 021 970 5120 www.karsten.co.za
- Orchard Management Systems www.orchman.com Berry technical and management consulting services
- Original Agricultural Business Systems (OABS) Tel: 021 870 2953 www.oabs.co.za An Agricultural Economics consultancy firm with a systems approach to problem solving. Ken Bern has experience in the berry sector.
- OZblu www.ozblu.com A blueberry producer based in South Africa and Australia
- Polkadraai Strawberry Farm Tel: 021 881 3303 http://polkadraaifarm.co.za
- Pomegranate Dejuicing Company Tel: 083 228 8498
- Pomono runs the Pomegranates Direct project. See www.pomegranatesdirect.com.
- Professional Horticultural Consulting (PHC) https://phcstrawberries.co.za
- Pure Legacy Tel: 076 906 8197 www.purelegacy.co.za
- Red Berry Farm Tel: 044 870 7123/ 083 277 7421 www.redberryfarm.co.za
- RSA International Tel: 021 532 1300 www.rsa.co.za
- SAPEX Exports Tel: 021 883 8280 www.sapex.co.za Exporter
- Star South Tel: 021 864 3655 www.starsouth.co.za Pomegranate exporter
- Stargrow Fruit Marketing Tel: 021 880 1882 www.stargrow.co.za
- Strawberry Farm Tel: 012 207 1116 http://thestrawberryfarm.co.za
- The Field Berry Farm Tel: 079 719 0793 https://thefieldberryfarm.com
- TopFruit Tel: 021 874 1033 www.topfruit.co.za
- United Exports Tel: 021 851 1618 www.united-exports.com
- Vanguard International Tel: 083 680 5156 www.vanguardteam.com Exporter
- Wildebraam Berry Estate Tel: 028 514 3132 www.wildebraam.co.za
- Winterwood Farms Ltd www.winterwood.co.uk A major company in the Berries sector – importing and exporting
- Wynland Boerdery Tel: 021 881 3222 www.zetler.co.za One of the leading strawberry producers in the Western Cape
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 (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/.
- Liedtke S. 2021, January 28. “€3m loan to support South African blueberry industry”. Engineering News. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/3m-loan-to-support-south-african-blueberry-industry-2021-01-28
- AFP. 2020, December 2. “Demand for S. African ‘superfood’ blueberries booming”. MSN. Available at www.msn.com/en-za/news/world/demand-for-safrican-superfood-blueberries-booming/ar-BB1bxWmN
- Jansen C. 2020, November 18. “Blueberry grower alleges United Exports claimed royalties on unregistered varieties”. FreshPlaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/9269470/blueberry-grower-alleges-united-exports-claimed-royalties-on-unregistered-varieties
- Githathu M. 2020, November 9. “Blueberry industry faces blues over trading rights row”. Cape Argus. Available at www.iol.co.za/capeargus/news/blueberry-industry-faces-blues-over-trading-rights-row-8017179e-251f-4e42-a80c-ce14ba44768c
- Kriel G. 2020, July 6. “The importance of timing to strawberry production”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/fruit-nuts/the-importance-of-timing-to-strawberry-production/
- Bulbulia T. 2020, April 29. “South Africa’s blueberry production soars, strong future growth predicted”. Engineering News. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/south-africas-blueberry-production-soars-strong-future-growth-predicted-2020-04-29
- Mudge J. 2020, April 8. “South African blueberry boom continues with 53% increase in exports”. Fresh Plaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/9206949/south-african-blueberry-boom-continues-with-53-increase-in-exports/
- Reporter. 2019, November 22. “South Africa berry production set to grow 80%”. Fresh Plaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/9166253/south-africa-berry-production-set-to-grow-80/
- Kotzé J. 2019, October 10. “Blueberries: Market access a key ingredient for agricultural sector growth”. IOL. Available at www.iol.co.za/business-report/opinion/blueberries-market-access-a-key-ingredient-for-agricultural-sector-growth-34493553
- Liedtke S. 2019, August 22. “South African blueberry industry sets its sights on key export markets”. Engineering News. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/south-african-blueberry-industry-sets-its-sights-on-key-export-markets-2019-08-22
- The Money Show. 2019, August 22. “Blueberry production – and employment – skyrockets to all-time high”. 702. Available at www.702.co.za/articles/358583/blueberry-production-and-employment-skyrockets-to-all-time-high
- Sihlobo W. 2019, July 20. “Blueberries and Jobs in South Africa”. Available at https://wandilesihlobo.com/2019/07/20/blueberries-and-jobs-in-south-africa/
- IANS. 2019, June 3. “Eating blueberries can improve heart health”. IOL. Available at www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/health/eating-blueberries-can-improve-heart-health-24857614
- Spritzler F. 2019, April 24. “11 Reasons Why Berries Are Among the Healthiest Foods on Earth”. Healthline. Available at www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-reasons-to-eat-berries
- Jansen C. 2018, October 2. “South African blueberry industry aims to compete with Chile and Argentina”. FreshPlaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/9028108/south-african-blueberry-industry-aims-to-compete-with-chile-and-argentina/
- Takadi K. 2018, August 3. “Blueberry production: big profits, big opportunities”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.absa.co.za/content/dam/south-africa/absa/pdf/business/sector-focus/agribusiness/blueberry-production.pdf
- Janzen C. 2018, July 2. “South African blueberry production aims to close local supply gap”. Fresh Plaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/197497/South-African-blueberry-production-aims-to-close-local-supply-gap
- Ferreira J. 2017, October 20. “Strawberries: overcoming the stumbling blocks”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/fruit-nuts/strawberries-overcoming-stumbling-blocks/
- Find other articles on berries and exotic fruit in the Farmer’s Weekly and its website like “The complexity of berry farming” (which includes grower notes) and “A look at South Africa’s pomegranate production”. Visit www.farmersweekly.co.za.
- Slot S.B. 2017, June 6. “Quality Control challenges for blueberry exporters and retailers”. Fresh Plaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/177008/Quality-Control-challenges-for-blueberry-exporters-and-retailers
- Find the article “Burgeoning South African dragon fly fruit industry” at www.freshplaza.com.
- Stander L. 2011, June 3. “Exporting berries to the UK has its own unique challenges”. How We Made It In Africa. Available at www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/exporting-berries-to-the-uk-has-its-own-unique-challenges/10090/
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