ZZ2 is an agricultural enterprise operating in Mooketsi, Politsi, Polokwane and Musina in the Limpopo Province, Ceres and Riebeek-Wes in the Western Cape and Langkloof in the Eastern Cape. It was registered as a private company in 1966. For more information on the company, click here, and for its product range, click here. In this interview, its marketing manager Clive Garnett tells Produce Business UK why the UK market is playing a lesser role in the export mix for both ZZ2 and many of its South African counterparts
How has ZZ2’s export business with Europe evolved in terms of countries and product mix?
Clive Garnett (CG): Traditionally the majority of South African (including ZZ2’s) avocados used to go into France and England. This started changing a number of years ago and we now supply the Scandinavian countries, previous Eastern Bloc countries like the Czech Republic and Romania, through to Portugal and Italy. Spain has also started to become a large receiver of our products, while the majority now probably goes into Germany. When one refers to apples and pears, Europe now forms a small part of our plans as the majority of our products are going to the Far East, the Middle East and to a larger and larger extent, they are [being sold in] Africa.
Where does the UK sit in the big picture for ZZ2? Is it becoming a more or less important market for you?
CG: We sell avocados, apples and pears to UK customers. The UK is playing a smaller and smaller role for ZZ2 due to the incredibly demanding supermarket requirements, which are not translating into premium prices.
The Far East, the Middle East and Africa are far less demanding in terms of GlobalGAP, HACCP, Nature’s Choice, BRC, Sedex and all types of social responsibility audits now required. They are also growing markets and are prepared to adequately compensate the farmer as their supply chain is less costly. This results in better returns back on the farm.
ZZ2 claims to be a world leader in sustainable practices that will deliver long-term value to the international marketplace. Are buyers extracting as much value from your operation as they could yet?
CG: Our sustainable practices refer to how we farm in harmony with nature. We look after our soils so that we will be able to continue farming for much longer than the old conventional ways of farming. See the section on our web page devoted to Natuurboerdery (nature friendly farming). Regarding the extraction of value, we believe there are some buyers in Europe doing so.
Are there any new products or varieties that are in the pipeline that might be suited to the UK market? Simply Sundried, who you work with, exhibited at the London Produce Show & Conference 2015 and I know they got a lot of interest from UK and international buyers.
CG: We are increasing our product offering [by] including cactus pears, medjool dates, mangoes and cherries. The Simply Sundried product also holds much potential. On the avocado side we are continuously looking at new varieties, working closely with organisations in the USA and Israel.
In your view as one of the clear market leaders, is the South African fresh produce export market in a good place right now? Is there confidence in the future and are companies continuing to invest and expand?
CG: South African growers are resilient, optimistic and positive. Fruit and vegetables go through cycles and it is therefore important to have a long-term outlook.
With the South African Rand taking a beating in the last few months the export markets are incredibly attractive. The number of producers in South Africa is probably shrinking but those that are making it are definitely continuing to invest and expand.
How does the South African market compare, for example, with the UK and how does ZZ2 deal with the differences between each market?
CG: The South African market is completely different in that it is still based on the agency system where an agent handles our products on a consignment basis and earns an ad valorem commission based on the sales price. Most other markets around the world are wholesale markets. We use an agent in South Africa to sell our avocados, apples and pears into the various world markets.
It’s ZZ2’s 50th birthday as a company next year; do you have any plans to mark it?
CG: The van Zyl family have been farming in this area since 1906. It was just that the company was registered in 1965. We therefore have no special plans to celebrate our 50 years.
Read other articles in PBUK’s Sourcing Spotlight on South Africa: