The Good Story of South African Apples

I have been writing a bit about grains, oilseeds and other crops, but I haven’t quite touched on apples. So, to kick off what I hope will be continuous conversation about apples, I will briefly reflect on their growth and key underpinning factors thereafter.

South Africa produces on average about 850 000 tonnes of apples a year. This has grown significantly from levels of just under 650 000 tonnes in the early 2000’s. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, South Africa is ranked the fourth largest apple producer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Similar to other deciduous fruits, some of the key drivers behind this have partially been the expansion in the area planted and technological innovation, which in turn was supported by an uptick in both domestic and global demand.

While the 2017/18 production could decline by 6 percent from the previous season owing to drier weather conditions in the Western Cape – a key producing province accounting for over 80 percent of the crop – the long-term outlook is positive.

As the saying goes ‘an apple a day keeps a doctor away’, South African apples sure have been keeping doctors away in many countries over the past few years.

In the past six seasons, South Africa exported on average about 44 percent of its apple production. In 2016, South Africa was the sixth world’s largest exporter of apples with a share of 6 percent, according to data from Trade Map.

The leading buyers included the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Kenya amongst others.  

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Author: Wandile Sihlobo

Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa. He is a columnist for Business Day and Farmers Weekly magazine. Sihlobo is a member of the South African Agricultural Economics Association. He has previously served as an economist at Grain South Africa. He holds a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Stellenbosch University.

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