The 2020/21 season is upon us and the stone fruit forecast and overall estimate volumes are looking much better compared to the same time last year.

Good winter rainfall in most parts of the Western Cape during 2020, together with good winter chill and moderate spring conditions, contributed to better overall fruit set for all stone fruit commodities.

Although it is still very early in the season, we are optimistic about the anticipated volumes of especially apricots and plums that are predicted to normalise. The drought plaguing the Little Karoo for the past few years has not yet fully broken, but water availability has improved slightly. Therefore, conditions are looking better for stone fruit compared to the previous two seasons for this region.

The initial stone fruit export crop estimate projects an increase in volumes compared to the previous season. Early varieties are estimated to be seven to ten days later than last year. Apricots are estimated to increase by 23% year-on-year (y/y), mainly due to Imperial/Palsteyn returning to an average export crop. With fruit set looking much better and with more available irrigation water in the Little Karoo compared to previous seasons, apricot volumes are set to increase.

Nectarine and plum performance

Nectarine export volumes are expected to increase from last year’s five million cartons to 5,6 million cartons. The growth in export volumes of this stone fruit is driven by young orchards coming into production, mainly in the mid-season, as well as more favourable weather conditions. Similarly, peaches are also expected to increase to a normal crop (5% y/y).

Plum growers are expecting export volumes to increase by 22% compared to last season, returning to a normal plum export volume. Drought and warm weather during spring negatively affected the past two seasons’ volumes. Favourable weather conditions had a positive impact on fruit set for this coming season and we are optimistic about the harvest.

An optimistic outlook for stone fruit

South African stone fruit growers, packers and exporters remain committed to supplying consumers with excellent quality and great-tasting products. The logistics chain has also returned to a more normal operational status, with much effort going into improving efficiencies in all the major ports from which fruit are shipped.

The industry is confident the logistical challenges experienced during the past year due to COVID-19 are something of the past. With that said, the industry is looking forward to a great season. –Press release, Hortgro