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Strong pomefruit campaign a felicitous touch to a decade in fruit trade Export

Ten years ago Michiel Herholdt and his business partner Andries Greyling established Paarl-based The Fruit Route “with love,” says Michiel. “We mean to be in this business for a long time.”

The Fruit Route works very closely with a large group of producers to be a reliable partner that offers trusted brands to customers across the world with fruit on the water for between 48 and 50 weeks of the year.

Stonefruit, including cherries, start in November, soon joined by grapes. January sees the commencement of their pear exports, followed by apples the next month. Citrus from across South Africa come in during March and April.

Apart from exports they also supply local retail, specifically Pick n Pay and Spar, in association with partners Dutoit.

“Many of the people who started with us ten years ago, are still with us,” Michiel remarks. “That says something about us and the culture of cooperation that we foster with our producers and with our clients.”

Pomefruit shortages apparent towards end of year
Hail has palpably reduced South Africa’s pomefruit crop.

Michiel is circumspect about the extent to which shortages of apples and pears will develop, across all cultivars, but he is certain that it will be the inevitable consequence of a series of severe hail events in the Koue Bokkeveld and the Langkloof.

For the moment, though, the apple and pear trade has been off to a very good start to fill the space left by lower pomefruit supplies in the Northern Hemisphere and the lower volumes from South Africa.

Right: Many export opportunities for Galas 

Lower apple volumes in Europe created a pull on which they could capitalize with a limited amount of Royal Beaut to Europe – the first time they’ve done this – and they were very pleasantly surprised by the response.

“At The Fruit Route we start the season with Galas – as a company we really like Galas, it’s an incredible cultivar of which we trade large volumes. There are many opportunities across the world for Galas – India is massive, Bangladesh is very big as well. Over the years the Middle East has always been a very stable Gala market.”

Very good Forelle season expected
Significantly fewer Williams BC pears were exported by South Africa than last year and good quality fruit was able to realise excellent returns in most export markets (but not the Middle East which doesn’t take any BC pears).

Similarly there were lower volumes of the early blush cultivars like Cheeky and Rosemarie but Michiel remarks that they’re very satisfied with the results that have realised Europe and the Middle East.

“On Packhams we’ve exported somewhat more year-to-date, but it’s been more as a result of guys starting packing earlier on the Controlled Atmosphere fruit.”

Forelle pears are a preferred variety worldwide and, he says, a very good Forelle campaign is expected.

Only Europe takes South Africa’s Abate Fetel pears, making it a variety that can easily hit a rough patch like last year which he says was a very difficult year for Abate Fetel.

“The 2023 Abate Fetel crop is significantly lower than last year. We’ve seen the early arrivals were strong and the variety is in a much better position than last year simply as a result of lower supplies and the current market situation in Europe.”

Glimmers of hope
Three years down the road from Covid, and Michiel observes positive signs for the South African fruit industry.

“I get the impression that markets have turned and I think – I hope I’m right – that if we can get through the next 18 to 20 months, I predict a prosperous future for South African fruit. There’s a sense of rebirth in the markets, in Europe and elsewhere, and that really heartens us.”

He maintains that South African fruit retains a cachet which ensures its desirability.

“For that reason,” he says, “it is crucial that we work together in the best interests of the industry.”

For more information:
Michiel Herholdt
The Fruit Route
Tel: +27 79 661 8483



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