The South African blueberry industry is on the right track despite the difficult season

The campaign did not live up to expectations, but greater access to South African-grown fruit is still at stake. South Africa's blueberry exports fell short of expectations in 2023, but industry leaders have said the rapidly expanding business is still on track to continue growing. Last season, South Africa exported just over 22.000 tonnes of blueberries, less than the 25.000 tonnes initially planned.

“We had some difficult conditions during harvest that slowed down picking and packing,” said Brent Walsh, CEO of Berries ZA. ”We are also in a phase of introducing new varieties that position us for long-term growth.

"Our long-term forecast continues to be for considerable growth and that is why we want to access the Eastern consumer markets, and India is an example," he explained.

According to Walsh, South Africa is well advanced in its efforts to gain access for its blueberries in India.

Final comments from Indian authorities are now awaited and the industry hopes to make progress on the matter during Fresh Produce India in March.

The country has a growing blueberry industry and has seen substantial growth in production in recent years.

Last year's smaller harvest was disappointing, especially because there was strong demand and good prices in traditional markets.

“Our competitors in Peru were also affected and that was reflected in the strength of the market,” he outlined.

As the industry looks to the future, it is hoped that South Africa will be able to make its first shipments to India as the new season gains momentum in July.

"This assumes that the final agreements are in place by then," Walsh confirmed.

“We can serve the Indian market both by air and by sea, and some of our growers are in the north of the country and can ship their fruit from ports on the east coast.”

In global terms, South Africa's blueberry production is still very small. However, in recent years producers in many parts of the country have invested in new plantations.

The Western Cape remains the main production region and most fruit is shipped in containers from Cape Town or exported by air when necessary.

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