RSA cherry industry needs introspection

With the global production of cherry expected to decline for 2020/2021, coupled by Chinese and Russian casual rouse in appetite for cherries, South Africa was in deep slumber.

Since its establishment in 2002, the South African Cherry’s Growers Association (SACGA), had managed up to now, produce 23 producers and 30 farming units covering 388 ha of cherry production.

Western Cape led the production followed by Free State, North West and Mpumalanga respectively.

According to Hortgro’s Nina Viljoen, South Africa contributed 0,1% of the global cherry production with Chile (26%) and Hong Kong (20%) leading the race.  

The National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) Fruit Flow Report forecasts Chinese cherry imports increasing by 8% ‘from the previous season of 180 000 tons.’

“China is the leading importer of cherries, and the demand has been on an upward trajectory since 2009/10” said the council.

Lebanon was considered among the rising exporters of cherries. Due to the Syrian conflict, the country’s total production of cherry decreased substantially from 6 000 hectares in 2013 to 5,400 hectares in 2017.

According to the Trademap data, “the total Lebanese cherry exports were about 4000 tons in 2016, getting to 2600 in 2017” with the export purchasing prices per ton having increasing by 9% in the latest years.

Taken collectively, these global developments necessitate for the South African Cherry Growers Association to convene an uncomfortable conversation with government and potential small-scale producers – to boost the production of cherries.  

Amending its constitution would be the first step, as it conferred too much powers to the Executive Committee who “shall have the right to accept applicants for membership on the basis of these regulations or to refuse membership with or without assigning any reason for doing so.”

Ceren Edrin and Gokhan Ozkaya seminar paper on the ‘contribution of small and medium enterprises to economic development and quality of life in Turkey’ provided plentiful advice for including small scale players in the economy of an industry.

“They had more flexible production opportunities compared to large enterprises, and adapted to the changes in demand in a short time and reached full competition conditions quickly.”

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