South African Pear Exports Down by a Fifth

Europe’s pear crop and monthly stock volumes were down – but so was South Africa’s, drastically: almost 20% fewer pears will be exported this season.

Volumes were lower than had been initially expected, even when hail is factored in. Fortunately sizing was not significantly influenced by the drop in volumes.

The result is a pear undersupply and not only to Europe, where South Africa is the largest counter seasonal pear supplier, but to the Middle East and Far East too.

“There is not enough of certain cultivars like Forelle and its green equivalent Vermont Beauty,” says Jacques du Preez, general manager for trade and markets at Hortgro, the deciduous fruit umbrella body.

Some pear exporters report a “hyper good” season for South African pears in Europe – one calling it the best export season for pears in Europe ever.

“It’s going well in Europe but I don’t know whether you could call it the best season ever,” Jacques says.

“It depends on the country and the client. Prices are decent but lower volumes mean the returns back on farm aren’t necessarily that great, plus coupled with the hail damage which hit some growers hard.”

South Africa will now wind down after the tariff that applies to South African pears from mid-July/August.

The UK season is chugging along on an even keel – no significant changes wrought by Brexit – and it’s the only market that hasn’t received lower volumes than last year.

More homework needed in China
The in-transit cold treatment for topfruit finally approved by India has been, Jacques remarks, a massive change. Previously pears (as all other fruit) destined for India had to wait ten days in a South African cold store before it could be loaded.

“The new in-transit cold treatment frees up cold store space and everything doesn’t have to be brought to a standstill as exporters wait for the ten days to elapse prior to being shipped to India,” he says.

It is expected that India and China – it’s the first full year of pear exports to China – will in future pull ever more pears their way, while a traditional market like the UK receives fewer South African pears.

A pear exporter has told FreshPlaza that the returns from Chinese pear exports don’t match European returns this season.

There are too many variables to speculate on the reasons for this, he adds, and timing on the market could well be one of them, but for now Europe is the safer bet.

Snow & rain: high expectations for next crop
The current winter is cold and wet; Jacques observes that farmers are already getting excited about next year’s crop.

The damage wrought to topfruit orchards by recent floods in the Cape was nothing compared to what citrus orchards suffered. The topfruit crop was already harvested and infrastructure damage, like hail nets blown over, can be repaired.

The Langkloof, whose drought continued after ending in the Western Cape, has finally been getting proper and sustained rain, prompting a Langkloof grower to recently remark to Jacques: “Flood damage you can rectify, but drought you can do nothing about.”

Written by Caroline Jansen for on 19 July 2023. 

Share this post