Making short work of pome fruit.
Delecta Fruit exports Southern African deciduous and citrus fruit to countries across the globe.
The company was founded in 1997 after deregulations of the South African fruit industry. Today, they export deciduous and citrus fruit across the globe. Their aim is to maximise the income for each bin of fruit and for this reason they have also added a domestic marketing department to the business during the past year.
Delecta export 43 pome fruit producers’ fruit to 59 receivers across the globe. These varieties include various apples, such as Golden Delicious, Royal Gala, Pink Lady, Cripps Red and Topred. The pear varieties include Forelle, William’s Bon Cretien, Rosemarie, Flamingo, Duyenne Du Comice, Abate Fetel, and Packham’s Triumph.
The company is jointly owned by leading producers and management. There are four teams specialising in export and domestic marketing, focusing on stone fruit, blueberries and butternuts, pome fruit, grapes and citrus.
About protecting the orchards, Gert Marais, Category Manager for Apples and Pears, said that they use netting on some of the varieties to change the microclimate, benefitting Class 1 pack out percentage significantly in these case.
Irrigation systems on the farms are designed according to what is needed in the specific orchard. It is also dependant on the climate of the particular region and what variety and rootstock is used. When asked about fertilizers, Gert said that the soil dictates and demands what nature requires. Today a more progressive approach towards fertilizer is followed and mulching and composting is reducing the use of conventional fertilizers.
Commenting on a new technology they currently use on the farms, Gert said that knowledge and information gathered from specialists and travel abroad is used to improve the yield and the quality of their fruit. New technology and interesting new varieties are but a few areas the growers have to invest in to make sure their products stay in high demand.
When it comes to packaging, Delecta does not take any chances with the quality of their fruit. For optimal freshness and fruit longevity, it is best if the fruit is packed on the farm and cooled down to zero degrees. This ensures the best shelf like after a long journey of three to four weeks abroad. Gert said that they handle their fruit with respect, making sure that the consumer has a wonderful eating experience and more. A fact that is well known and something to always keep in mind is that the consumer buys with their eyes – therefore, much detail goes into the packaging and presenting of the end-product.
When asked what technology they use in their packing facilities, Gert said that the packing of fruit is an expensive exercise and systems worth millions of Rands are imported from manufacturers in France and Italy.
Packing is also a labour-intensive process and supplies many South Africans with a sustainable job and income.
Focussing on exports and the current situation worldwide with the COVID-19 epidemic, current delays in the port are challenging, especially the Cape Town port, which can be wind-bound for days. Because of COVID-19 they are experiencing a shortage of shipping containers. Shipping of containers is delayed due to empty containers not arriving from, especially the Far East.
Commenting on the biggest challenges that producers face on the day to day basis, Gert said increasing costs challenges the modern fruit grower. Establishing new orchards are very expensive and a long term investment in an ever fast-changing market. Producers also need to be shrewd businessmen, in order to survive. This is largely due to the fact that the South African fruit producer does not get any support from the government, as their competitors from other fruit-producing countries get from their governments.
Since the start of lockdown, fresh produce with longer shelf-life, such as apples, pears, citrus and butternuts, is experiencing better sales. Consumers visit supermarkets more frequently, buying food with a longer shelf life. Looking at the positives, Gert says they are in the business of health. “We are suppliers of a healthy, natural product sourced from nature which benefits the overall health and wellbeing of our consumers.”
Mari Falck, Market Access Manager at Delecta, says by expressing Delecta Fruit’s support to good social practise and it encourages their producers to participate in social compliance standards. There are special requirements for third party audits by customers, depending on the market requirements. Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) / Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) certification ensures full market access. Social and environmental self-assessment questionnaires must be registered and completed annually. As a minimum, all suppliers must have GLOBALG.A.P Risk Assessment on Social Practice (GRASP) ethical accreditation as an add-on to Global GAP.
Vegetables & Fruit / Groente & Vrugte is one of a few publications for the entire fresh produce industry. The magazine was established in 1988. It is available on subscription to producers, market agents and fresh produce markets as well as related businesses and suppliers.