Crunch Time

Apples and pears remain key basket items despite drought


Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest marketer of South African apples and pears, and the biggest supplier of Abate Fetel pears, invested in a varietal-specific promotion to drive consumer awareness of Abate Fetel sales at retail level during April this year.

Tru-Cape Managing Director Roelf Pienaar says that with each season that Abate Fetel is marketed locally, more and more consumers get to experience the versatile pear which, unlike most other pears that need to be ripened at home, is good to eat fresh and crisp and as delicious as it ripens and the white flesh becomes juicy.

“While Packham’s Triumph is still the most popular pear, plantings of Abate Fetel are increasing and far in the lead of other historically popular pear varieties like Rosemarie, Forelle and Bosc."

An apple a day

Tru-Cape is equally pleased with a recent study that confirms the adage about an apple a day keeping the doctor away. According to Tru-Cape’s Quality Assurance Manager, Henk Griessel, new research finds that older women who eat an apple a day will live a third longer than those who don’t.

According to a report from The University of Western Australia, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, in Perth, women who ate an apple every day had a 35% lower risk of dying prematurely than those who did not. Lead scientist, Dr Jonathan Hodgson, said the team studied apples as they were the most commonly consumed fruits: “Apples also provide a significant contribution to a number of dietary factors that are thought to be important in relation to health - dietary fibre, flavonoids and vitamins like vitamin c, potassium and magnesium,” he said. His study looked at a group of 1, 456 women, aged between 70 and 85, who were asked to regularly record their diets over a 15-year period.

Griessel, a former university lecturer in apple biology, concurs with the science underscoring the findings: “We’ve always known that flavonoids like Quercetin Glycosides were beneficial because they act as an anti-oxidant and help to remove free radicals from the system but here is proof that they are anti-ageing and life enhancing in a measurable way”, he says adding “Storing your apples in the fridge will keep them freshest for the longest period.”

Drought conditions

The drought conditions and extremely high December 2015 and January 2016 temperatures has Western Cape apple and pear growers thinking carefully about irrigation practice and future varietals.

For Calla du Toit, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing’s Procurement Manager and a grower in the Witzenberg Valley of Ceres, the necessity for irrigation water has been the mother of invention including the unorthodox use of plastic caps to top irrigating sprayers to ensure that water reaches the stem of the plant and is not lost to wind evaporation.

“Growers are also treating the leaves with a fine layer of kaolin, a white clay powder from which porcelain is made”, he explains, “which reduces the plant’s need for water by increasing its photosynthetic rate. It acts very much the same way that suntan-lotion does on the skin by reflecting away light. Another benefit of the kaolin spray is that insects don’t like it as it clogs their breathing apparatus but it is also difficult to clean off the fruit so we tend not to use it unless really necessary. ”

“In Ceres we typically have 1150mm of rain a year and yet this year before the April harvest we had just less than a quarter of that with 454mm of rain recorded.

"Not only are we thinking carefully about the varietals we plant in terms of the length of time they are on the trees and require irrigation but also about how we irrigate. We now quickly pulse irrigate rather than water for an extended period of time which we did in the past.

Spreading the risk

According to Pienaar, Tru-Cape sells around R1.5 billion in fruit each year equated to about 14 million cartons.

“As a wholly grower-owned business, we work hard to support the more than 15 200 people and their families who rely on our ability to market our growers’ fruit at the best price,” he says.

Pienaar explains that as Tru-Cape sells fruit to over 100 countries it needs to source fruit from a number of different growing biomes and regions within Ceres, the Elgin, Grabouw and Villiersdorp Valleys and in The Langkloof to spread the risk. “Our continued ability to meet our commitments to our customers, even when parts of the country are in drought, hail or flood conditions, is what makes Tru-Cape the leading marketer of apples and pears.”

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Issue 46


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