Last week our Topfruit Category Manager, Wynand Viljoen, spent the week in the northern part of South Africa for the start of their Pink Lady® harvest. The Pink Lady® harvest season is obviously very exciting, but one should not overlook the other incredible varietals and clones we get from this area.
“Good winter, high chill and fantastic soils makes this area extremely special for apple production. The Free State producers are always 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the other apple production areas and warm days with cold nights help colour development on Pink Lady®”, says Wynand.
Due to the overall rise in Pink Lady® volumes from all Southern Hemisphere countries, the old traditional markets (EU and UK) are no longer sufficient. The “new” markets require 60% plus colour which is an opportunity for SA. As a result, our growers have planted new Pink Lady® clones over the last few years (specifically Rosy Glow and Lady in Red) which are in a different class to the old Cripps Pink orchards because of their deeper pink colour and higher overall percentage of colour. “We are hopeful that with these apple clones we will be able to enter new markets that we could not enter before to take up some of the volume we produce”, comments Wynand.
Colour remains an important character for export markets. “2023 was a better colour year than 2022”, remarks Wynand. “This was mainly due to the weather, and suppliers investing in best practices that include “blare breek” and applying Harvista on the older Cripps Pink types which allows the fruit to hang for longer. By delaying the ripening process, it allows the colour to develop fully”.
“The opportunity to work with such established orchards in the northern parts of South Africa gives Cape Five a huge advantage in the marketplace. The combined skills and in-depth knowledge of our apple farmers contribute to an excellent product, which is also the first in the southern hemisphere to go to market. What more advantage could you wish for?”, says Wynand. South African Pink Lady® go to market ahead of Chile, Argentina and New Zealand, which offers an excellent market opportunity. “New markets are a focus for us, as the EU and UK are not procuring the volumes as they did in the past”, he says.
Within the marketplace, the UK and EU are very keen consumers of Pink Lady® apples, but the increase in Pink Lady® volumes produced in the EU, are limiting the early SA season volumes into these markets. This has forced the hand of all SA Pink Lady® exporters to explore other markets, with both high and low colour Pink Lady® requirements. “This is a work in progress and the SA industry needs to do this very important development as a team. Time and tide, waits for no man”, says Wynand.
On his return to the Cape, we asked Wynand a couple of questions about his visit to this region:
What is the general feeling of the 2023 harvest?
In general the fruit size on the earlier cultivars was smaller than last year. Packouts have been variable and the local market has been under a lot of pressure. Everybody is excited about the Pink Lady® crop due to good sizing and colour and hopefully good export packouts.
Are there any challenges and/ or highlights for you?
The challenges are the limited demand in the UK and EU which is concerning.
Highlights: The volumes and quality of the higher colour Pink Lady® coming into production and developing of the new Pink Lady® markets.
We are hoping for an excellent apple year ahead with our partners, suppliers, team and customers.