Hortgro, the South African top and stone fruit growers association, said that exports of apples and pears are continuing as planned, with volumes to the UK as expected and improved eating quality compared to last season.
Although the industry is still running on schedule, they are inevitably facing numerous logistical challenges, due to the impact of COVID-19, such as social distancing in packhouses, operating capacity at ports and transport of workers to and from farms.
The majority of pear growers have now finished harvesting, enabling many workers to take some time off, which helps to manage social distancing. Hortgro recently reported that worker transport is being carefully managed and there has been a significant reduction in group travel.
Last week’s data (week 14) showed that exports to the UK are slightly down on this time last year. The heatwave in January has negatively impacted the early pear sizing and colouring, but in general, colour development and pack-outs looks promising so far in the season. An increase in most apple crop varieties will be seen in 2020.
“The apple harvest generally looks good this year and although the pandemic will definitely influence exports we’re hoping that it will be as minimal as possible," Jacques du Preez, Hortgro’s General Manager for Trade and Markets, said. "Indications in Europe have been that due to the pandemic, the demand for fresh fruit and vegetables has increased.”
Hortgro have also emphasised the importance of fresh produce consumption, particularly during the current climate. “Fresh produce boosts immunity and is important in the fight against coronavirus. Fruit such as apples and pears is full of vitamin C, dietary fibre and potassium.”
The South African Fruit promotional campaign is continuing to support the industry in the UK and will be focusing on top fruit from this month until the end of August. Activities include trade and consumer PR, trade advertising, social media and recipe development. Generic initiatives ‘South African Young Chef of the Year’ and ‘Help a South African School’ will both continue to run this year, but will be adapted in line with COVID-19 regulations.
Nicholas Dicey, chairman of Hortgro, and president of the World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA), commented: “In these challenging and unprecedented times, the South African top fruit industry recognises the role that it plays to ensure the continuous supply of top quality and safe food to all our markets, and I hope that normality will return to our daily lives in the near future.”