In what has generally been an off year for South African litchi producers, one farm considers itself fortunate for many reasons. Not only did their litchi harvest exceed the already large crop of last year, but they had a relatively empty market in Europe for the start of their season with Madagascar coming in late and volumes from Mauritius and Réunion all but non-existent this year.
“We were lucky, we had a very big, very keen crop; a record crop in fact, totalling 590 000 cartons,” says Stuart Butcher, marketing director of Malelane-based Tomahawk Farming. “Last year, too, we had a good crop and we thought that perhaps it would be down this year, but no. Also, because of the cool, overcast conditions we had little incidence of sunburn. The quality and size were really good so the packout percentage was higher than normal and actual cartons that were packed ended up being more than last year.”
“This season we had a decent air freight window, where last year offered very poor air freight opportunities. We started air freight with very low volumes by the end of October, with the early varieties like Third Month Red and Early Delight, before going over to the main crop of Mauritius litchis which continued through until mid-December with airfreight. When litchi volumes from Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion are low, it makes a massive difference for us.”
However, a strengthened Rand since the election of a new ANC president to succeed controversial President Jacob Zuma has turned what could have been a year of exceptional returns for litchi growers into a good year. “However, the market has been positive, everything is going according to plan thus far, but the exchange rate has a large influence and it hasn’t helped us.” –Fresh Plaza