• Berry farming is labour intensive.
  • As berries are sold as fresh produce, the post harvest process from the field to the customer plays a vital role.
  • It is largely an export crop, so other challenges include the cost of freight and competition from South America.
  • There are two reasons why South Africa is well-placed to tap into the Northern Hemisphere markets: (i) we have a range of climates suitable for berry-growing; (ii) we have a strategic advantage in the fact that we are out of season.
  • Berries are consumed as fruit, and also used as products for juice, jam, yoghurt, preserves and liqueur.

International business environment

Find the FRESHPLAZA June 2018 Overview of the Global Strawberry Market.

Most strawberry cultivars grow well under cool climatic conditions. However, temperatures below -0.5°C can cause severe damage to full blooms.

Temperatures in European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Germany are below freezing point for a prolonged period of time during winter. Spain and Italy also have very cold winters. Farmers in these countries have adopted various methods of “forced cultivation” for off-season strawberry production to take advantage of the high market prices during winter. In Holland and Belgium strawberries are grown in glasshouses throughout winter, using bags and pots filled with a peat-based substrate. Strawberries are also grown under polyethylene tunnels in Spain, Italy, France, U.K. and Germany.

Back in September 2013, the International TradeProbe (47) looked at the trade of strawberries. The information above was included in that review. Find the TradeProbes at www.namc.co.za.

 

Some websites

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 our chapter 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.

South Africa: imports and exports

Find information about berry exports in the FPEF’s latest Export Directory (see “Websites & publications” heading). Also, 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.

Local business environment

  • 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.  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.
  • Both the local and export marketing of fruit are free from government intervention. The exporting of fruit is subject to compliance with certain quality requirements and obtaining a PPECB (Perishable Products Export Control Board) export certificate.

Historically, most berry exports go to the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) flagged blue berries (along with macadamias and pecan nuts) back in 2011 as “high-growth labour intensive industries”. Growth since them has been “phenomenal”.

 

The executive summary of the BFAP BASELINE Agricultural Outlook 2017-2026 includes blue berries in the category “highly capital intensive and export orientated commodities”. Growth in these industries is expected to continue, dependent on the investment climate remaining positive. Find the latest Baseline at www.bfap.co.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

  • 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

 

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 in this chapter.

  • 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.
  • 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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