• Included in the category “Subtropical fruits” are avocados, bananas, mangoes, litchis, papayas, granadillas, pineapples and guavas.
  • The particular climatic requirements of some types of subtropical fruit make their cultivation only possible in certain specific areas of the country. In general, subtropical fruit types require warmer conditions and are sensitive to large fluctuations in temperature and to frost.
  • The main production areas of subtropical fruit in South Africa are parts of the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Fruit like granadillas and guavas are also grown in the Western Cape, while pineapples are grown in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Subtropical fruit like avocados, mangoes, bananas and litchis are important crops for the country, having both high-growth-potential while being in the labour intensive quadrant (Sihlobo, 2018).
macfrut.com

Avocados

  • Around 14 700 ha in South Africa are under commercial avocado orchards, with new plantings amounting to approximately 800 ha per annum (SAMAC, 2021).
  • Avocados in South Africa are grown under drip irrigation in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape Provinces. The Limpopo province is the largest avocado production area accounting for 58% of the total production in 2020, followed by Mpumalanga (24%), and KwaZulu-Natal (14%). The Eastern Cape and Western Cape account for only 4% of the total production.
  • The Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces have a warm subtropical climate which is better suited to the production of avocados, whereas the Western Cape and Eastern Cape have a much cooler climate. The growth in late cultivar varieties is the main driver for the increases in these provinces, which are currently targeted at supplying the domestic market during the off-season period of October to March.
  • The Hass avocado is the predominant variety planted in South Africa, accounting for 80 percent of the total area planted. The Fuerte, Pinkerton, Ryan and Reed varieties make up the remaining 20 percent of avocado production. Information about avocado varieties and their harvest seasons in South Africa is shown at https://avocado.co.za/cultivars.
  • The growing demand and high returns from avocado exports has also resulted in most farmers diverting land away from other crops such as bananas, sugar, mangoes and commercial timber/ forestry.
  • Some 45% of avocados are exported, contributing 63% to the Gross Producer Value for this fruit. Avocado exports in 2020 – 15 million tons – were valued at R1.26 billion. Europe remains the principal market for South African avocado exports, accounting for 92 percent of the total exports. South Africa is under increasing pressure to acquire new markets for its avocados, and currently is prioritizing efforts to gain market access in the United States, Japan, India and China. This is expected to diversify exports from Europe, and to absorb the anticipated future increases in production.
Source: Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline 2021-2030 at www.bfap.co.za; USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report “Strong Domestic and Export Demand Drives Growth in South African Avocado Plantings” (2021, February).

 

Further reading:

  • A starting point for anything you wish to know about avocados is the website www.avocado.co.za. This is particularly true if you are a member of the SA Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA). Market information, research reports, publications and more reserved for you. For non-members there are notes on the different varieties of avocado, ripening and storage, recipes, news and market information.
  • The Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline 2021-2030 at www.bfap.co.za includes a mini-study “A Global Perspective In The Growth Potential Of Avocados” (find Box 9).
  • Under “Resource Centre” on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) website, www.dalrrd.gov.za, find “Production guidelines avocado” and the Info Pak “Cultivation of avocados”. Also check whether the Directorate Marketing has resumed publishing the annual Profile of the South African Avocado Market Value Chain on its web pages on the same website.
  • Publications available for purchase from the ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops (ARC-TSC) include (i) “Cultivation of Avocado”, (ii) “Avocado Pests/Avokadoplae” (English & Afrikaans combination) and (iii) Identification Manual for Avocado Pests by Dr J.C. Robinson. Call 013 753 7000 or write to infoitsc [at] arc.agric.za.

 

Some articles:

 

Bananas

  • South African banana production occurs in six distinct subtropical regions of the country: (i) Mpumalanga – the Onderberg (Malelane and Komatipoort) and Kiepersol (ii) Limpopo – Levubu and Letaba (iii) KwaZulu-Natal – the North and South Coasts.
  • South African bananas are primarily sold on the domestic markets. These bananas are of the Cavendish sub-group of dessert bananas. This is especially so where intensive farming happens (e.g. in the Onderberg). Developments in tissue culture technology have been instrumental in a huge lift in production per hectare in the past decade.
  • South Africa is a relatively small role player in the banana export market. Almost all exports go to African markets. Imports from neighbouring Mozambique and Swaziland put pressure on South African producers (Jansen, 2021; Sihlobo, 2018).
  • Mozambique’s climate and soil has attracted banana producers to that country, among them South Africans. Banana production there overtook South Africa’s in 2012, and by 2019 Mozambique produced 725 000 tonnes compared to South Africa’s 405 000 tonnes (Jansen, 2021).
  • Some former large banana producers in Limpopo have completely exited the industry, switching to citrus, avocados or macadamias (Jansen, 2021).

 

Further reading:

 

Guavas

  • South Africa is a small player on the global market in terms of guava production, and produces 32 000 tons to 35 000 tons annually.
  • India is the largest producer, accounting for approximately 20,7 million tons in 2020, followed by China, which produced around 5,16 million tons.
  • In Africa, both Egypt and Nigeria are bigger producers of guavas than South Africa, accounting for about 1,16 million tons and 949 000 tons respectively.
  • Approximately 70% of SA’s guava harvest is sent to the juice market. Guavas can also be eaten as fresh fruit, dried fruit, and be canned or processed into pulp and concentrate.
  • The fresh market is lucrative but limited, accounting for only 24% of production.
  • Guava production in the north of the country has suffered from guava wilt disease lately, and farmers are replacing guava orchards with other crops. The Western Cape is free of the disease.
Source: www.farmersweekly.co.za/agri-news/south-africa/more-lucrative-markets-needed-for-sa-guavas/

 

Further reading:

Litchis

  • Mpumalanga is the leader in litchi production. The most important production areas for litchis are Malelane, Nelspruit, Trichardsdal, Tzaneen, Makhado, Levubu and the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • In the 2020/21 season, 1 396 tons were produced: 53% of the litchi crop was exported; 21% sold on fresh produce markets; 18% was processed; 7% direct sales; and 1% bakkie sales.
  • The South African Litchi Growers’ Association (SALGA) website, www.litchisa.co.za, provides consumer and other information. Members have access to technical information and the Subtrop Journal online.
Source: http://litchisa.co.za

 

Further reading:

  • Find the information on litchis, consumer information, recipes, trader information and more at www.litchisa.co.za.
  • Under “Resource Centre” on the DALRRD website, www.dalrrd.gov.za, find “Production guidelines Litchi” and the Info Pak “Ndimo ya minambelo”. Check whether the Directorate Marketing has resumed publishing the annual Profile of the South African Litchi Market Value Chain on its web pages on the same website
  • Publications available for purchase from the ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops include “Cultivation of Litchi”. Call 013 753 7000 or write to infoitsc [at] arc.agric.za.
  • The South African Litchi Growers’ Association has a Litchi Management Programme CD which covers all areas of growing this crop.

 

Macadamias

Please see separate page.

Mangoes

  • Mangoes are tropical, but they do well in the drier subtropical areas under irrigation. Mangoes grown in higher rainfall areas are extremely prone to post harvest rots. They are in season from December to April.
  • Pictures and notes of the main cultivars can be found at www.mango.co.za.
  • The mango production regions are situated mainly in the North Eastern part of South Africa. Limpopo is the largest producer of mangoes, mostly found in the Soutpansberg, Letaba and Hoedspruit. Mpumalanga produces mangoes around Malelane and Komatipoort, and in KwaZulu-Natal, the fruit is mostly found in Pongola.
  • The elevation of the mango growing areas varies from 300 to 950 metres above sea level. The average annual rainfall in the major growing areas varies from 300 to 1000 mm. Flowering during winter (June to August) is normally intense, which indicates that winter conditions are adequately inductive for flowering. Differences in average temperature between the major mango growing regions gives rise to differences in harvest date. Fruit produced in the higher lying areas are harvested later than fruit produced in the lower lying areas. The difference in the time of harvest for a specific cultivar may be as long as 3 to 6 weeks.
  • Mangoes are dried, juiced or used for achar.
  • Most mango exports (49%) go to the Middle East, with African countries (16%) and the Far East (11%) third (Subtrop, 2020).
Source: Profile of the South African Mango Market Value Chain (see "Websites & publications" heading) and Subtrop.

 

Further reading:

  • The website www.mango.co.za, run by the SA Mango Growers’ Association, contains technical and consumer information. It would be a useful place for the starter or the old-hand.
  • Read the latest Fresh Plaza  Overview Global Mango Market at www.freshplaza.com.
  • Under “Resource Centre” on the DALRRD website, www.dalrrd.gov.za, find “Brochure Mango” and the Info Pak “Cultivation of mangoes”. Check whether the Directorate Marketing has resumed publishing the annual Profile of the South African Mango Market Value Chain on its web pages on the same website.
  • Publications available for purchase from the ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops include (i) “Cultivation of Mango”, (ii) “Mango Malformation / Mango Misvorming”, and (iii) “Mango pests/diseases / Mangoplae/siektes”. Call 013 753 7000 or write to infoitsc [at] arc.agric.za.
  • Jansen C. 2020, December 17. “Prices drop by almost 60% as South Africa enters peak mango season”. FreshPlaza. Available at www.freshplaza.com/article/9278291/prices-drop-by-almost-60-as-south-africa-enters-peak-mango-season/

Pineapples

Of all the countries where pineapples are produced, South Africa is the furthest south in the world.

  • Pineapples are grown worldwide mainly in the region between the two tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and temperature is the most important factor influencing growth, varying between 10 and 35 °C. Optimum is +- 24 °C (fluctuating between 20 – 28 °C). Most pineapples are produced on low altitudes (near sea level, below 500 m). Relative humidity is very important and that is why the most pineapple producing areas are close to huge water bodies ( = high humidity/ dew factor).
  • Pineapple production in South Africa is located in mainly two regions, namely the Eastern Cape and Northern KwaZulu-Natal (Hluhluwe district). Some new plantings were recently established in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo (Levubu).
  • Pineapples cannot tolerate frost. Rainfall average 650 mm/year which is far below the average required rainfall (1250 mm), but pineapples can adapt to negative circumstances and a crop can be produced at rainfall as low as 500 mm/year, as long as the highest rainfall occurs in the warm months and sophisticated farming practices such as mulching (plastic/organic) are applied.
  • Varieties produced are the Smooth Cayenne (Eastern Cape) for export juice concentrate and the Queen (mainly Hluhluwe) for the local and export fresh fruit market. The fairly new MD2 variety is planted in smaller quantities and will be produced for the fresh fruit market as well as for ready-to-eat products for export. Ninety percent of the fresh pineapples sold in South Africa are of the Queen variety.
  • Pineapple cultivation is very labour intensive – planting, harvesting and packing are all done manually. In the Cayenne industry planting and harvesting machines are sometimes used. The success of pineapple production lies in effective management – for fresh fruit production the aim is to be on the market every week.
  • Pineapples can be eaten as fresh fruit, but some 80% of the crop goes to the processing sector. This include canning, pineapple concentrate, juicing, jam, wine, dried fruit, and pineapple fibre (downstream activities of weaving and designing). The Covid-19 lockdown popularised another use for pineapples: given the ban on alcohol, pineapples are used to brew beer.
Source: Elmarie Rabie (adapted)

 

Further reading:

Other subtropical fruit

Cactus Pears

The season for cactus pears stretches from approximately mid December, when fruit from the Lowveld starts ripening, until the middle of March. Fruit from the Highveld area is available until late April. In the southern parts of the country fruit ripens much later than in the northern regions, which is from February until April. Limited quantities of fruit are available during the winter months. Cactus pears can be kept in the peel at room temperature for up to two weeks. If refrigerated, and unpeeled it can be kept for long periods without losing any flavour. It is advisable to peel the fruit before eating.

The cactus pear is extremely versatile and its uses include the following:

  • A source of food for man and animals
  • Security (Impermeable fences)
  • The shallow root system prevents soil erosion
  • The production of by-products, e.g. jams, syrup, soap and mampoer
  • The young pads can be used as a green vegetable
  • The biggest enemy of the plant, the cochineal insect, is used in the manufacture of a natural food and textile dye.
  • It is also has medical (drugs against diabetes and high blood pressure) and cosmetic industry (shampoos and soaps) value.

Researchers at the University of the Free State (details under “Training and research” heading) believe cactus pears are an alternative crop for arid areas.

Further reading:

Granadillas

  • The granadilla is a tropical plant that prefers temperate temperatures throughout the year. It is not frost resistant, but the purple granadilla can withstand light frost. Cultivation areas are Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, and isolated areas in the Eastern and Western Cape.
  • Three popular cultivars seem to do well in the South African climate – the Purple granadilla, the Yellow granadilla, and the Ester (a crossbreed between the first two). A large fruit, a high percentage of juice and high soluble solids, and good sugar content are the qualities that juice processors look for. Granadilla juice is extremely popular and demand seems to outstrip supply.
  • One of the main expenses with granadillas is the cost of trellising. Costs relating to the erecting of trellises can be softened if farmers prepare their own support poles and droppers from local material. The short life span of the plant (three to five years) in relation to its high establishment costs, is an issue.
  • There are very few insects that pose as problems to papayas but fungal diseases in hot and moist areas cause problems. Preventative treatment, therefore, is required.

Other subtropical fruit include papayas (paw-paws), kiwifruit, loquats and melons.

Further reading:

For the newcomer

  • The ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops (TSC) is involved with community-based subtropical fruit projects aimed at increasing the production of high-quality fruit and developing technological and business skills. One of its core objectives is to facilitate black farmers’ entry and participation in the fruit industry. Contact them at 013 753 7000 or visit www.arc.agric.za. Various publications geared for the small-scale farmer are available from the ARC-Tropical & Subtropical Crops. Call the number above or email infoitsc [at] arc.agric.za.
  • The goal of the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) programme is to continually improve labour conditions on all farms in a practical and comprehensive manner, which has the potential to benefit businesses and impact positively on hundreds of thousands of employees. Read more at www.siza.co.za.
  • Subtrop is involved with projects in Venda to assist small growers through study groups in the area. For more details, contact Subtrop (find details under the “Associations involved” heading).
  • Refer to the many grower guides under the “Websites & publications” heading.

National strategy and government contact

The National Development Plan (NDP) sees the avocado sector in particular as being one in which jobs can be created. The BFAP Baseline 2019 noted that avocados and macadamias were among those industries that have already expanded beyond the targets of the NDP (BFAP, 2019).

  • Find information about the relevant directorates (like Food Import and Export Standards) under “Branches” at www.dalrrd.gov.za, website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

Associations involved

Subtropical Growers’ Association (Subtrop) www.subtrop.co.za

Subtrop manages the affairs of the Avocado, Litchi, Macadamia and Mango Growers’ Associations.

Subtrop’s three member associations all have voluntary membership and their activities are funded by levies on members’ production. Activities of the associations may include:

  • Technical support and advisory services to growers
  • Coordination of technical research according to industry needs
  • Funding of appropriate technical and market research.
  • Supply of market information.
  • Local export and local market development through generic promotion.
  • Liaison with government and other bodies, both locally and internationally

Other associations and statutory bodies are:

  • The Banana Growers’ Association of South Africa (BGASA) Tel: 083 310 4747 / 013 755 2714
  • There is also a Papaya Exporters’ Association (SAPEA). Mr Aart Louw can be contacted c/o Neo Fresh 013 590 0947
  • Cactus Pear Growers Association www.cactuspear.co.za
  • Guava Producers’ Association www.guavaproducers.co.za
  • Hluhluwe Pineapple Marketing Association www.pineapples.co.za
  • Hluhluwe Pineapple and Farmers’Association (HPFA) www.pineapples.co.za
  • Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) www.ppecb.com
  • Pineapple Growers Association (PGA) Tel: 046 625 0515 / 082 600 8001
  • South African Kiwi Growers’ Association www.sakiwi.co.za

Training and research

Find the “Training material” option at www.subtrop.co.za

  • Learnerships and apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job learning along with some theoretical training. The major part of the training can be offered on the farm. Find information on learnerships in the “Agricultural education & training” article, or at the AgriSETA website, www.agriseta.co.za (under “Skills delivery” option).
  • Some AgriSETA accredited providers offer training e.g. Skills for All do training in the cultivation of bananas, mangoes and avocados. Find details in the “Agricultural education & training” article or at www.agriseta.co.za.
  • All institutions offering agricultural degrees or diplomas do training e.g. Lowveld, Madzivhandila and Cedara Agricultural Colleges, Universities of the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Pretoria, the Tshwane University of Technology.
  • Provincial Departments of Agriculture are involved in research and training.

Some of the role players are listed below:

  • ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops (ARC-TSC) Tel: 013 753 7000 www.arc.agric.za The TSC also runs training courses on demand. These cover: (i) Introduction to the crop (ii) Growth requirements: -climate, soil & water (iii) Propagation (iv) Soil preparation and planting (v) Fertilisation (vi) Irrigation (vii) Weed control (viii) Pest management (ix) Disease management (x) Other cultivation practices (xi) Harvesting (xii) Post-harvest handling. Research is done on granadillas, litchis etc.
  • ARC- Plant Protection Research (ARC-PPR) Tel: 012 808 8000 Contact Teresa Goszczynska about diseases on bananas. E-mail: goszczyn-skat [at] arc.agric.za
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Fibres and Textiles Support Tel: 041 508 3223 / 89 www.csir.co.za
  • Du Roi Laboratory www.duroilab.co.za
  • Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute (GADI) does training in Cactus pear fruit production. Visit http://gadi.agric.za.
  • QMS Agri Science www.agriscience.co.za
  • UFS Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences Tel: 051 401 2210 [find the “Cactus pear (Prickly pear)”] option on the Animal Nutrition web pages on www.ufs.ac.za. Research done on cactus plants.
  • Westfalia Technological Services  www.westfalia.co.za 

Companies involved

 

Finance

Refer to the “Providers of financial services” and “Finance for new farmers and SMMEs” pages.

 

Producers and exporters

Find exporter lists on https://fpef.co.za, www.avocado.co.za and www.litchisa.co.za. Exporters are also listed in the general “Fruit” article.

 

Market agents

Find the list of market agents on www.apacweb.org.za.

 

Processors

A further list of mango processors is at www.mango.co.za.

 

Websites and publications

  • Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.
  • The annual Food Trade SA publication is a good source of export statistics for fresh produce. Find it at https://ppecb.com/documents.
  • http://subtropgoggas.co.za is a website for Subtrop members on pests.
  • The South African Fruit Trade Flow and the DALRRD-NAMC TradeProbe reports often deal with subtropical fruit. These can mostly be found at www.namc.co.za.
  • In addition to the numerous grower guides mentioned under the individual fruit-type headings earlier, other general subtropical fruit publications can also be found on the DALRRD website, www.dalrrd.gov.za. These include: “Production guidelines subtropical fruit”, and the Info Paks “Step-by-step Export manual for the South African fruit industry” and “Cultivating subtropical crops”.
  • Refer to “Statistical information” under “Resource Centre” and “Publications” on www.dalrrd.gov.za for statistics on the various subtropical fruit. These figures include production, sales on markets, exports, purchases for processing, prices realised, gross value and total value of production. Find the earlier references in this chapter to the annual Market Value Chain publications compiled by the Directorate Marketing at the DALRRD.
  • In addition to the crop-specific ones listed earlier, other publications available for purchase from the ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops include (i) Cultivating subtropical crops, and (iii) Pests and Beneficial Arthropods of Tropical and Non-citrus Subtropical Crops in South Africa. Call 013 753 7000 or write to infoitsc [at] arc.agric.za.
  • CD Roms from the ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research) include: (i) Crop Pests, vol. 2: Citrus And Other Subtropicals (ii) Medically Important Spiders and Scorpions of Southern Africa. Write to booksales [at] arc.agric.za or infopri [at] arc.agric.za.
  • Available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the publication “Agro-processing of Subtropical Fruit (Avocado, bananas, figs, guava, kiwifruit, litchi, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple)”. Visit www.arc.agric.za or call 012 842 4017.
  • The AgriSETA Assessment Guide Primary Agriculture “Monitor the establishment of a crop” includes orchard trees.Another learner guide of relevance here is “Harvesting agricultural crops” at https://www.agriseta.co.za/downloads/LearningMaterial/116201_LG.pdf
  • Several subtropical fruits are dealt with in the publication “Fruit and nut production in KZN”, which can be downloaded at www.kzndard.gov.za/resource-centre
  • Read the agricultural weeklies, Landbouweekblad and Farmer’s Weekly, or visit the websites www.landbou.com and www.farmersweekly.co.za for articles.
  • Find information on the SA Fruit Journal at www.safj.co.za.

 

Some international websites

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