Drought battle persists in South Africa

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The South African stonefruit industry has said that it remains committed to supplying consumers with good quality and great tasting products, as the country’s drought continues in production areas.

Hortgro, the organisation representing South Africa’s stone and topfruit industries, has been supporting producers and agricultural workers to manage their product during the harvesting season.

Hortgro Science, the research engine of the South African deciduous fruit industry, works with several industry experts to provide growers with relevant, research-based information that will enhance the quality of their fruit.

Growers receive regular notes and technical updates from Hortgro Science, highlighting the primary fruit quality aspects to be adhered to during heat waves.

Stonefruit production areas such as Little Karoo from Montagu, Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, through to Prince Albert, have suffered severely; with some even losing their farms, and many farmworkers without income or jobs.

Hortgro, in association with the Canning Fruit Producers’ Association, Agri Western Cape, Agri SA and Wine TU, have pooled resources to help producers financially to carry on with the rest of the production season and contain regional crop protection risks.

In the lead up to Christmas, Hortgro also delivered a thousand food parcels to affected farmworkers in the Ladismith area and held a ‘resilience workshop’ to empower them mentally with coping strategies.

The drought, however, has in fact broken in other areas such as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, and Hortgro is optimistic that volumes will continue to increase throughout the season.

Jacques du Preez, general manager trade and markets at Hortgro said: “We’re projecting an increase of 21 per cent for nectarines compared to last season’s volumes, an increase of 14 per cent for peaches and a 10 per cent increase for plums. The continued droughts in some areas have, of course, impacted on the 2019/20 season’s full potential, but volumes and quality have certainly improved compared to last year.