Local farmers and co-operatives will export more of their fruit harvest after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the South African government and the People’s Republic of China earlier this month.
The MOU was signed in Beijing, China, by Willem Bestbier, vice-chairperson of Fruit South Africa (Fruit SA) and his counterpart, Wang Xin, vice-chairperson of the Chinese Quarantine and Inspection Association (CIQA) on 1 November 2016.
For now negotiations are underway to increase market access for South African pears. Avocados and other fruit will be considered in the next round of negotiations.
Last year, China imported 3,8 million tons of fruit, of which 110 000 tons were from South Africa. The Chinese fruit market is valued at US$5 billion (approximately R71 billion), and within five years South Africa’s access will be one and a half times greater.
Dr Konanani Liphadzi, CEO of Fruit South Africa shares insights on the impact of the MOU on agriculture in South Africa.
She says job creation will be increased because of the new agreement between China and South Africa relating to fruit exports.
Dr Liphadzi, what does this new agreement with China mean for South Africa?
With regards to the new MOU, this means the initiative is broadening market access. Secondly, we could share technical information like quarantine issues and also assist them with information required. It goes both ways.
We also have a partner on the ground in China, who can share things like policy changes. This partnership builds on the foundation we already have with China. Lastly, there will be a lot of job creation, from hand pickers in South Africa to people doing packaging that will be hired, due to increased demand.
What fruits do we export to China?
The three main produce we supply to the Chinese market are apples, citrus and table grapes.
How many local fruit suppliers currently export to China?
Currently there are twelve companies that supply to China.
How many people are employed at present within the fruit industry?
Currently 50% of our fruit produce are exported to 87 countries worldwide, with China being one of them. Overall 2,7 million tons of fruit are exported globally, and 110 000 of this go to China. This translates to 300 000 jobs locally in the fruit industry – that’s along the value chain, from the farm to where it ends with the consumer.
Tell us about the South African exporters.
The 12 companies include those that buy fruit from the farmers. Others produce their own fruit and buy from different farmers. Lastly, we have co-operatives, a group working together producing fruit. Then they have a marketing company advertising for them. The exporters are mainly from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. The major producers come from the Western Cape, as a result of its unique environment.
Are any of the fruit sent to China being genetically modified?
We don’t produce genetically modified (GM) fruit in South Africa.
How can an entrepreneur or any other farmer(s) get their fruit exported?
There is room for new exporters, especially in terms of transformation. The Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF) is an association for developing new entries within the export market. It is a challenging process to get into exports, because it is not an easy industry. Anyone interested in exports, is welcome to contact me.
Will China export any of their fruit to South Africa?
They also want to send fruit. We are counter season to them. So when we are harvesting, they have winter there. Selling fruit to them won’t be a major issue. Our department of agriculture is considering citrus from them. We are not competing with them.
Is there anything you would like to add?
With regards to the new MOU, it means the initiative is broadening market access. This is in line with what our country’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 aims to achieve. We have identified a commodity; we are increasing volumes to create jobs and opening up a market for our produce.