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 Find the 2021 Global State of the Blueberry Industry Report on the website
- 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. 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:
- 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 Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF)‘s latest Export Directory and in the annual Food Trade SA publication from PPECB (see “Websites & publications” heading).
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
Find details of the following directorates on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) website, www.dalrrd.gov.za :
- Directorate: Plant Health
- Directorate: Food Safety and Quality Assurance
- Directorate: International Trade
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) www.fpef.co.za
- Hortgro www.hortgro.co.za
- International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) Southern Africa www.freshproduce.com
- Intensive Growers Association (IGA) http://intensivegrowers.co.za
- Pomegranate Association of South Africa (POMASA) www.sapomegranate.co.za
- The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) is the official certification agency that ensures quality in the supply chain. Visit www.ppecb.com
- South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) www.sabs.co.za
- Amathole Economic Development Agency www.aspire.org.za
- Fedgroup www.fedgroup.co.za Invests in blueberry, honey and urban solar farms
- Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) 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)
- Amathole Berries (Pty) Ltd Tel: 043 782 0610
- Berryworld SA www.berryworld.com
- Blue Delite Nursery https://bluedelitenursery.co.za
- Blue Mountain Berries (BMB) http://bluemountainberries.co.za
- Blueberry Heights Tel: 083 880 8787 http://blueberryheights.co.za
- Bon-Af Berry Farm Tel: 056 811 3966
- BronPro http://bronpro.co.za
- C Fruit https://cfruit.co.za
- Cappeny Estates www.cappenyestates.com Strawberry grower
- Corefruit www.corefruit.com Pomegranate exporter
- DaisyFresh Hydroponics https://daisyfreshhydroponics.com
- Denbi www.denbi.com
- DKI Fruit Marketing http://dkifruit.co.za
- Dole SA http://dolesa.co.za
- Dreammaker Fruits www.winterwood.co.uk Blueberries and raspberries are grown on South African farms for this UK-based company.
- Eurafruit SA Tel: 021 880 1720
- Euroberry www.euroberry.co.za
- Fall Creek Nursery South Africa www.fallcreeknursery.com
- Favourite Fresh Export www.ffesa.co.za
- Franschhoek Marketing www.freshnessfirst.co.za
- Freshgold SA Exports www.freshgoldsa.co.za
- Freshworld www.freshworld.co.za Exporter
- Fyvie Farming http://fyviefarming.co.za
- Garden of Eden Berries https://gardenofedenberries.com
- Haygrove Heaven www.haygrove.co.za
- Mountain Breeze Farm Tel: 021 880 1700
- Orchard Management Systems www.orchman.com Berry technical and management consulting services
- Original Agricultural Business Systems (OABS) 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 http://polkadraaifarm.co.za
- Pomegranate Dejuicing Company Tel: 083 228 8498
- Pomono runs the Pomegranates Direct project. See www.pomegranatesdirect.com.
- Pure Legacy www.purelegacy.co.za
- Red Berry Farm www.redberryfarm.co.za
- RSA International www.rsa.co.za
- SAPEX Exports www.sapex.co.za
- Star South www.starsouth.co.za Pomegranate exporter
- Stargrow Fruit Marketing www.stargrow.co.za
- Strawberry Farm http://thestrawberryfarm.co.za
- The Field Berry Farm https://thefieldberryfarm.com
- TopFruit www.topfruit.co.za
- United Exports www.united-exports.com
- Vanguard International www.vanguardteam.com Exporter
- Wildebraam Berry Estate www.wildebraam.co.za
- Winterwood Farms Ltd www.winterwood.co.uk A major company in the Berries sector – importing and exporting
- Wynland Boerdery www.zetler.co.za One of the leading strawberry producers in the Western Cape
Training and research
- ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij 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 www.sun.ac.za/horticulture
- SU South African Research Chair in Postharvest Technology Tel: 021 808 4064
- University of the Free State Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences 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/.
- Kriel G. 2022, January 13. “Robot boosts blueberry picking efficiencies”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/field-crops/robot-boosts-blueberry-picking-efficiencies/
- Jones L. 2021, November 30. “Blueberry industry is the fastest-growing horticultural industry in South Africa”. FreshPlaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/9378542/blueberry-industry-is-the-fastest-growing-horticultural-industry-in-south-africa/
- Marketplace Africa. 2021, September 21. “Blueberries could be the next cash crop in South Africa”. CNN. Available at https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2021/09/21/marketplace-africa-western-cape-blueberries-spc.cnn/video/playlists/marketplace-africa-pre-roll/
- Van der Walt J. 2021, May 27. “SA’s blueberry exports set to increase 58% this season”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/agri-news/south-africa/sas-blueberry-exports-set-to-increase-58-this-season/
- 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/
- Read the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report “South African Blueberry Industry Continues Strong Growth” (June 30, 2020).
- 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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