The UK and European markets are traditionally the most important markets for South African produce and, despite current currency uncertainties and political turmoil, this will remain the case at least for now, although many exporters are looking at spreading the risk by sending more produce to Russia, and the Middle and Far Eastern markets.
“The fresh produce business is by nature a volatile business as it is based on demand and supply,” explains Wibo van den Ende from SAFE. “The Asian markets are growing and are logistically a natural trading partner for South Africa. We mainly focus on retail customers within Asia and, with a transit time of between 18-26 days, we have an advantage over other Southern Hemisphere suppliers who take longer to get there.”
“The UK is a supermarket orientated market, so those programs should be fine despite current issues – we have our retail contacts both in the UK and in Europe set. We aim for 50/60% to Europe and the UK and 30/40% to Asian markets and 10% to other markets, such as Russia and Middle East,” said Wibo.
As for the student riots and the Finance Minister being accused of fraud, making the South African political situation volatile and causing the Rand to lose ground again, Wibo said that South Africa has always been “a bit unstable”.
“But if you look after your markets, are reliable and operate your business to global standards, you will do well. On the upside South Africa is always exciting and never a boring place to do business!”
SAFE has eleven farms in the Northern and Western Capes, three of which are Fairtrade accredited, which makes them the only company which can cover the whole season with Fairtrade grapes.
“All is looking positive in the Northern Cape at the moment, the berries are a very good size and growing conditions have been good so far, but it is still early days,” cautions Wibo. “We are fortunate not to suffer from the impact of the drought, as we have a good water supply from the bore holes and our dams.”