Based on industry figures, South Africa’s blueberry production for 2019/20 increased to 18 000 t from 11 700 t the previous year, the South African Berry Producers Association (Sabpa) reports.
It says this 53% year-on-year growth in production is a testament to the growing investment in, and demand for, South African blueberries.
The organisation’s projections for the year ahead indicate that blueberry production could reach 25 000 t for the 2020/21 season, a solid increase considering the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
The industry’s growth was noted as particularly good news for Limpopo and Mpumalanga, where production is expected to grow by 136% and 102% respectively by 2025.
Earlier this month, the organisation announced a new record in blueberry exports with 12 282 t exported in 2019/20.
Read together with the production figures, the data shows that exports account for 68% of the industry’s production.
The agriculture and food supply sectors have been deemed essential services during the national lockdown in response to Covid-19. This is allowing farmers to stay on schedule with the planting season.
This year’s blueberry planting season is already under way. Sabpa expects that this year will be as productive as previous years, and says the industry will continue to achieve the growth that has allowed the industry to extend career and work opportunities to South Africa’s labour force.
“We understand that the economy is in a tough position with a staggering number of job losses. The response of the South African government with a R500-billion relief package is unprecedented and desperately needed.
"Nevertheless, we are grateful that we are able to continue with our operations, allowing us to continue to employ South Africans, giving livelihoods to a growing number of families. All our stakeholders are of course taking every precaution to protect the health and safety of our labour force,” chairperson Justin Mudge says.