South African blueberry industry makes up for lost time

The South African blueberry industry is making up for precious time lost during the recent port labour strike action. This weekend 3,500 tonnes of blueberries left Cape Town for the United Kingdom and Europe.

Source: Fresh Plaza

“While this is a significant volume in the South African context, it is a volume that can comfortably be absorbed by the UK and EU markets. We expect this to coincide with the tapering off of the South American supply and the upswing in South African exports.” says Elzette Schutte, operations manager at BerriesZA.

“The timing of the labour strike was not ideal for the blueberry export market, however, exporters and their logistics teams made provision for the delays through additional cold storage capacity, increased use of air-freight, and redirected fruit for alternative and better suited markets.”

She continues: “The EU and UK markets will continue to be fully serviced this season with shipping routes returning to pre-strike schedules within the next two weeks. The South African berry industry prides itself on the quality of product and we expect this level of quality to be maintained throughout the season fulfilling the expectations of the UK and EU retailers.”

She remarks that prior to the recent disruptions, container export logistics were showing much improved efficiencies since the challenges caused by COVID-19. “Industry has been actively engaging with South African container terminal service providers to facilitate this turnaround,” she says.

Varieties onboard represent the best
Year-to-date blueberry exports to Europe are currently 17% down on YTD forecasts due to the disruptions, but the industry expects to recover this deficit within the coming weeks with ongoing high demand for South African blueberries. Exports to Europe represent 50% of the South African export market.

“We are confident about the quality of the blueberries out of South Africa this season as we’ve experienced favourable weather conditions, resulting in good yields throughout the country. The varieties in this consignment represent the best of South African blueberries. We also had a slower start to the season, so we are not anticipating an oversupplied market,” she says.

Receivers have been well-briefed on the increased volumes underway. The total export crop forecast for the season is 25,000 tonnes of blueberries, exported to a number of international markets.