After a bumper year in 2021, South African farmers are gearing up for another stellar export season.
Last year, citrus, wine, apple and maize exports saw significant growth. This year, South African pear farmers have cause for celebration as the Chinese market has finally opened up to them.
The announcement, which came in late December and was made by South Africa’s deciduous fruit governing body, Hortgro, comes after years of negotiation by the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development and prominent industry bodies.
The protocol for South African pears was meant to be finalised last year, but travel restriction imposed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic stymied progress.
Jacques du Preez, general manager of Hortgro’s trade and markets division, expressed his delight at the deal, explaining that Hortgro and local pear farmers had been exploring ways to tap into the lucrative Chinese audience for many years.
South African apples have enjoyed a 6-year head start on pears in China, despite industry experts initially speculating that both would receive clearance together, according to FreshPlaza.
A formal, in-person signing was not possible because of the ongoing pandemic so the pear protocol was signed by the Chinese Minister of General Administrations of Customs China in late November and couriered to the South African minister of agriculture, Thoko Didiza.
Orchard and packhouse registration and verification processes still need to be completed but Hortgro confirmed that the final steps are already underway and being concluded virtually.
In a statement, Du Preez explained that if all went according to plan, the first consignment of pears to China could be expected sometime in February. Around 22% of South African pears already find their way to Asian shelves and growth has been steady in the last half-decade, according to Du Preez.
He said he looked forward to continuing to develop the relationship with the Chinese and Far East markets by working closely with Chinese authorities to expedite market access between the two trade partners, adding that Hortgro viewed the newly opened market as crucial for the sustainability of the domestic pear industry.
Anton Rabe, Hortgro’s executive director, however, called for industry players to manage their expectation regarding the new partnership. Rabe stated that while securing access to a Chinese market was the industry’s top target, the new endeavour would not prove to be a ‘magic bullet’ resulting in overnight export volumes increases.
Fostering the newly formed partnership and optimising trade potential would need to be addressed before meaningful export increases could be realised, he stated.