Blueberry season in South Africa begins | News

A further 10% increase in exports from South Africa is anticipated as the 2024 season gets off to a slow start.

Blueberries from South Africa on the plate

South Africa’s blueberry season has started in the north of the country and the first export shipments are expected to begin in four weeks.

However, significant exports will only begin when the harvest in the Western Cape picks up in the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, Berries ZA, the industry’s growing body, said it was making good progress in efforts to increase its footprint in eastern markets.

South Africa has already sent key information to India to advance access and received initial feedback, according to Brent Walsh, executive director of Berries ZA.

While it is generally accepted that the Indian process will be contested relatively soon, it will take longer to gain entry to China, where everything is now focused on access to South African stone fruits.

Walsh said there was great anticipation in the Indian trade for the start of exports from South Africa.

“For our industry, it will be a momentum shift to expand access to the east as the industry expects continued growth in the coming years,” he pointed out.

“For the immediate future, however, our eyes are also firmly focused on our markets in Europe and the UK, as well as the Middle East. In terms of these markets, the early indications are positive for a good season and we hope that the favorable weather we have had will continue,”

South Africa has a growing blueberry industry and has seen a substantial increase in production in recent years. However, the weather conditions and logistical problems of the past two years have been somewhat disruptive.

Walsh said South Africa is ideally suited to supply the Indian market from its east coast ports where there are good shipping opportunities.

There were also good opportunities for air cargo to India, he confirmed.

“The demand is already there in India and growing every year. Our industry is keen to supply this fast growing market with our high quality fruit.”

It was initially hoped that South Africa would be able to make the first shipments to India when the new season got under way in July. However, this may not be possible as experience shows that final protocol agreements take some time.

South Africa exported just over 22,000 tonnes of blueberries last year, less than the estimated 25,000 tonnes.

“We had some difficult conditions during harvest which slowed picking and packing,” added Walsh. “We are also in the process of introducing new varieties that position us for long-term growth.”

All indications are that South Africa will reach 25,000 tonnes this year.