SA fresh fruit industry enters 'dark room, looking for the light'

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It is as if South Africa's fresh fruit industry has entered into a "dark room and is looking for the light" due to widespread uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic and government regulations, according to Justin Chadwick of the Citrus Growers Association.

Chadwick, together with representatives of other fresh fruit bodies, was speaking during a webinar on the impact of the pandemic on the industry, hosted by Beanstalk.Global on Tuesday.

Consumers were still buying citrus fruits, he said, in part because of the Vitamin C they contains. And SA's citrus exports to Europe were still in demand.

"We are cautiously optimistic, but we understand there could be challenges going forward due to the impact of the pandemic. For now, there is still a demand for fresh produce all over the world. Consumers like variety in their diet and there will always be a place for SA's exported citrus," he said.

Clayton Swart of the South African Table Grape Industry said the local industry finished harvesting in April, and the bulk of exports have been shipped. 

Swart said he foresees that a consequence of the pandemic may be a greater demand for fresh fruit from a health aspect.

Marketing specialist Lianne Jones said that consumers will be willing to pay more for premium, high quality fruit because personal health has become more important for them due to the pandemic.

Pick n Pay is one of the retailers where this change in demand has been seen among consumers.

Liz van Niekerk, head of produce and horticulture for PicknPay, said during the webinar that fresh fruit purchases have risen due to an increased focus on health.

One notable increase has been in the sale of pineapples, she said. Anecdotally it is rumoured to be used in the brewing of home-made beer due to the ban on alcohol sales.

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