The export market channels for fresh produce from South Africa is functioning, despite the limitations brought on by the impact of global restrictions due to the coronavirus. This market, as well as the local market, have shown an ability to adapt to the changing circumstances. This was one of the hot topics of discussion during a recent webinar series hosted by the Holland Business Chamber South Africa (HBC-SA).

The series of webinar episodes focussed on the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on food security and sustainability on the livelihoods of South Africans. The webinar series was hosted in conjunction with the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC), the Embassy of the Netherlands, Enza Zaden South Africa and SPACE.TM. Several agricultural and business experts discussed various topics relating to agricultural production, trade and investments.

SA fruit exports holding up

There is no question that there will still be a demand for fresh produce exports from the Netherlands, even during these times – this was in short the message from Anne Saris, business manager of agrofood and distribution at the Port of Rotterdam, on day two of the three-part series. Saris gave insights on how COVID-19 has impacted the import and export of agrofoods in the Netherlands and South Africa.

fruit export

She said that the numbers of agri-food imports that have been going through the Rotterdam Port, have been holding up to usual standards. However, the demand for certain types of fruit in the Netherlands has changed. For example, there is a higher than usual demand for fruits high in Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system. This includes citrus as well as other fruits high in Vitamin C such as apples, pears and bananas. Consumers were buying a lot of these products in bulk and hoarding it.

Lower demand for exotic fruit

The demand for exotic fruits, which are usually high, has now become low. Another aspect she highlighted was that the demand for produce was inherently lower because food businesses in the Netherlands are closed. Saris said that because the demand of products vary, it is not possible to specify in percentages. She also said that demand varied in each food sector in the Netherlands. For example, in the retail sector retail demand increased because consumers were stocking up on produce.

In the food service industry, however, the demand has dropped to as low as 0% in some cases, because the food service and restaurant industries in the Netherlands have shut down. Local fresh produce markets in Holland are also affected by the restrictions placed on consumers. The asparagus industry has just started its season, but was impacted because consumers are not buying as much as usual. For more information on this topic watch Episode 2. Click here to watch Episode 1 and Episode 3. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit