• 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).

Avocados

  • Mexico is the largest avocado producer, with almost 1.9 million tonnes (60%) of the total. Other major producers are Peru (13%), Chile (7%), California (5%), South Africa (4%), Colombia (3%), Israel (3%), Australia (2% ) and Spain (1%) (Freshplaza, 2018).
  • The South African Avocado industry consists of approximately 17,500 ha of commercial avocado orchards, the majority of which are situated in the North Eastern part of the country in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Avocados are also grown commercially in certain areas of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. The industry is expanding at around 1,000 ha per annum.
  • In 2018, total production was estimated at 170,000 t. of which approximately 86,000 t was exported, mainly to Europe and the United Kingdom. The remainder of the crop was consumed domestically and approximately 10% is processed (oil and purée) (Subtrop, 2019).
  • The South African Avocado season extends from February to November with the majority of fruit being harvested from March to September. Due to climatic variability between growing regions, most of the major cultivars are available over an extended period during the season. For example, ‘Fuerte’ is harvested from March to May in the northern regions, and is harvested in July and August in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • The area under commercial avocado orchards stands around 17,500 ha with new plantings amounting to approximately 1,000 ha per annum.
  • Although the South African industry is export orientated, the South African market also plays a significant role with demand having grown considerably over the past few years.
  • Find photographs and notes on the different cultivars at www.avocado.co.za (take the “Consumer” option).

 

Further reading:

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 (ii) KwaZulu-Natal – the North and South Coasts.
  • The Onderberg region is the highest banana producing region with some 35 percent of the total land under banana cultivation, whilst the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal has the greatest concentration of producers. Bananas were grown on a total area of 10 280ha in 2014.
  • 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.
  • In 2017, South Africa imported 114 913 tonnes of bananas. 82% of this  came from Mozambique, 9% from Swaziland. South African producers feel under pressure from imports from our neighbours (Sihlobo, 2018).
  • South Africa is a relatively small role player in the banana export market. Almost all exports go to African markets.

 

Further reading:

Guavas

  • Although guavas are found throughout the country, the key growing regions for processed guavas are the Western Cape and Mpumalanga.
  • The Fan Retief cultivar, created in the Western Cape, currently accounts for 90% of commercial plantings.
  • Approximately 45 000 tonnes of guavas are harvested per annum for fresh sales and processing in South Africa. This excludes a large volume of guavas sold by informal traders. The bulk of the guavas (25 000 tonnes) are processed into juice products, while 24% (10 000 tonnes) are sold in the formal fresh market.
  • Guavas are eaten as fresh fruit, dried fruit, are canned, or processed into pulp and concentrate, or juiced.
  • Production is expected to decline to 24 000t from 2017’s 27 500t because of the recent drought in the Western Cape.
Source: www.guavaproducers.co.za; Farmer’s Weekly, 15 June 2018   

 

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.
  • South Africa annually produces approximately 2million 2kg cartons of litchis per season, while 2500 tons of fruit are sent to the local markets and approximately 1600 tons of fruit are sent to juicing facilities (Subtrop, 2019). The main form of processing is juice.
  • The litchi season is from October to February. Major cultivars like HLH Mauritius and McLean’s Red can be viewed at www.litchisa.co.za. The lack of early and late cultivars has been identified as something that hampers this industry’s growth.
  • This sector is export orientated. The Netherlands, UK and Middle East account for most of the sales.
Source: http://litchisa.co.za/about-us; SA Fruit Trade Flow, June 2016.

 

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.daff.gov.za, find “Production guidelines Litchi” and the Info Pak “Ndimo ya minambelo”. See also the latest annual Profile of the South African Litchi Market Value Chain on the Directorate Marketing’s 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 Fruit Trade Flow Issue 22 June 2016 provided overviews of the country’s trade in litchis. Find it here.
  • The South African Litchi Growers’ Association has a Litchi Management Programme CD which covers all areas of growing this crop.

Macadamias

Please see separate chapter.

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.
Source: Profile of the South African Mango Market Value Chain (see "Websites & publications" heading).

 

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.
  • Under “Resource Centre” on the DALRRD website, www.daff.gov.za, find “Brochure Mango” and the Info Pak “Cultivation of mangoes”. See also the latest annual Profile of the South African Mango Market Value Chain on the Directorate Marketing’s 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.

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. Other uses include canning, pineapple concentrate, juicing, jam, wine, dried fruit, and pineapple fibre (downstream activities of weaving and designing). Some 80% of the crop goes to the processing sector though.
Source: Elmarie Rabie.

 

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), loquats and melons.

Further reading:

  • Under “Resource Centre” on the DALRRD website, www.daff.gov.za, find “Brochure granadilla”, “Brochure Papaya” and the Info Paks “Growing granadillas” and “Cultivating papayas”.
  • Publications available for purchase from the ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops include (i) Cultivation of Granadilla, (ii) Die Verbouing van Granadillas, and (iii) Cultivation of Papaya. Call 013 753 7000 or write to infoitsc [at] arc.agric.za.

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 Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2018/19 – 2020/21 featured fruit export development in the Key Action Programmes. The intention was to accelerate export growth and develop value-added/processed products in both new and existing markets. Find the document at www.thedti.gov.za.

  • The Directorate: Food Import and Export Standards can be contacted at 012 319 6118. Find information about the relevant directorates under “Branches” at www.daff.gov.za, website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).
  • The Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) classified the subtropical fruit sector as a “high performer”. Find the document on the DALRRD website.
  • The National Development Plan (NDP) sees the avocado sector in particular as being one in which jobs can be created.

Associations involved

Subtropical Growers’ Association (Subtrop) Tel: 015 307 3677 / 015 306 6240 www.subtrop.co.za

Subtrop technical group:

  • SAAGA Horticulturist Andries Bester 082 426 5502
  • SAMGA Technical Co-ordinator Andre Botha 082 462 2657
  • SAAGA Horticulturist – KwaZulu-Natal & Mpumalanga Kamukata Kaluwa 081 042 4275
  • Technical Specialist: Market Access Kames Mehl 078 761 0860
  • Transformation Co-ordinator Nomvuyo Matlala 084 882 2763

Subtrop member associations:

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 at 083 628 0205.
  • Guava Producers’ Association Tel: 021 872 1501 www.guavaproducers.co.za
  • Hluhluwe Pineapple Marketing Association Tel: 035 562 0731 www.pineapples.co.za
  • Hluhluwe Pineapple and Farmers’Association (HPFA) Tel: 079 190 6939 info [at] pineapples.co.za
  • Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) Tel: 021 930 1134 www.ppecb.com
  • Pineapple Growers Association (PGA) Tel: 046 625 0515 / 082 600 8001
  • Cactus Pear Growers Association www.cactuspear.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. In KwaZulu-Natal, subtropical fruit specialists are Comfort Dlamini (035 572 5303, comfort.dlamini [at] kzndard.gov.za) and Andile Gcabasha (035 795 1946, andile.gcabasha [at] kzndard.gov.za]

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 Tel: 015 345 1217 www.duroilab.co.za
  • Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute (GADI) does training in Cactus pear fruit production. Visit http://gadi.agric.za.
  • NOSA Agricultural Services Tel: 087 286 9298 www.nosaagri.co.za
  • QMS Agri Science Tel: 076 312 5450 www.agriscience.co.za
  • University of the Free State (UFS) Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology Dewitm [at] ufs.ac.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 Tel: 015 309 0000 / 29 www.westfalia.co.za 

Companies involved

 

Consultants

  • Southern African Subtropical and Citrus Consultants (SASCCON) Tel: 083 629 3806 tom [at] fromabove.co.za, liezl [at] cri.co.za

 

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 in this chapter.

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.daff.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.daff.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.

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.

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/guideline-documents

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.

Publications available from Cactus Pear Growers Association: (i) An information brochure for prospective producers (ii) A recipe book with original and proven recipes is available.

 

Some international websites

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