This season’s apple harvests for South Africa and New Zealand are at optimal levels. The main issue in exporting, however, is projected to be complications in logistics arising from Covid-19.
SA apple harvest estimates for 2020
After three years of lower output, apple production returned to normal levels in the 2019/20 MY, due to normal winter weather conditions and improved measures by farmers to mitigate drought. The 2020 apple harvest had been predicted to be relatively normal. South Africa is forecast to produce 35,7 million cartons of apples, which is 6% more than last year’s harvest.
In South Africa, The Golden Delicious cultivar is the most planted variety, accounting for 23% of the total area planted, followed by the Royal Gala cultivar at 17% and Granny Smith at 15%. Other cultivars that have been growing steadily are the Pink Lady (11%), Top Red (10%), Fuji (9%), and Cripps Red (6%). Beginning in May, Golden Delicious and Cripps Red are in the harvest season.
Export outlook for 2020
The impact of Covid-19 to the 2019/2020 MY production is expected to be minimal as South Africa has harvested most of the fruit, and since the agriculture sector was classified as an essential service. Operations are continuing throughout the national lock-down.
However, the export of apples is estimated to decrease by 2% to 480k MT in the 2019/2020 MY, from 489,973 MT in the 2018/19 MY. This is mainly due to depressed demand in global markets, interruptions in the supply chain such as bottlenecks and closures at some ports, limited availability of containers, constrained shipping capacity.
New Zealand apple harvest estimates for 2020
New Zealand’s apple production is projected to increase for the third straight year, from 20k tons to 600k tons as trees from expanded planting areas come into production. To raise output, growers are turning towards reinvesting in existing orchards, replacing older varieties, and undertaking higher-density planting. Higher supplies are expected to boost exports from 15k tons to 405k tons with more shipments going towards Asian markets.
Export trends in recent years
New Zealand has achieved superior export prices for its fruit compared to its competitors (e.g. Chile). The New Zealand apple has held a premium position in key world markets as a result of the good quality of its fruit exports, the development of new varieties, and the ability to meet changing consumer demands. Market experts are anticipating that apple export volumes for this year are only slightly behind last year.
The sector was fortunate as a significant number of the overseas workers had already arrived in the country before the borders closed. In terms of exports, there have been some logistical challenges with shipping lines as some ports have been blocked. But the fact that China – which is New Zealand’s second-largest market- has opened up is good news for exporters. However, due to COVID-19, there have been logistical issues with exports to India, Vietnam, and Taiwan.