The South African pear industry is one of the world’s leading exporters of pears and is a significant supplier to the North European market.
Industry hosts International Pear Symposium
The country’s pear productions are expanding the local pear industry is also one of the front runners in terms of global pear research and innovation. The research and innovation contributions by South Africa to the international pear industry were highlighted at the recent XIV International Pear Symposium, hosted in South Africa during January, and attended by 100 pear enthusiasts from around the globe.
The country’s pear productions are steadily increasing and over the past decade, South African pear productions have increased from around 380 000 tonnes to 500 000 tons. According to Mariette Kotze, Group Operations Manager for Hortgro, the South African Deciduous Fruit Industry body, an analysis of the age distribution of South African pear orchards from the 2021 tree census illustrates that currently, 61% of the country’s pear orchards are in the optimum production phase, aged between 4 and 25 years. This bodes well for the future of the industry. More than 80% of South Africa’s pears are grown in the country’s Western Cape Province. The Mediterranean climate and fertile valleys of the region are ideal to produce this type of fruit.
South African pears have traditionally been marketed in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, but these markets are not currently showing major growth. The regions showing market growth for pears are in the Middle East, Far East, and Africa. Over the past 15 years, exports to these world regions have grown from 13% of total exports to 46% of total exports.
The past year has brought two major market access achievements for South African pears. The first was that South African pears gained official market access to China in 2022. This achievement was much celebrated as the application process took 18 years to complete. The first shipment of Forelle and Packham’s Triumph pears was sent to China in September 2022. The second one was that India recently approved the in-transit cold treatment for South African pears. By permitting in-transit cold treatment, the fruit reaches consumers faster and thus fresher.
Above: South African bred Cheeky® pears
There are three varieties that have traditionally been clear leaders in pear production in South Africa, namely Packham’s Triumph, Forelle, and William’s Bon Chrétien. While these three varieties are currently still the biggest varieties in production in the country, in general growers are not replanting Packham’s Triumph and William’s Bon Chretien. For Forelle, which is a blush pear, growers are planting Forelle on quince rootstocks for better performance than the traditional BP rootstocks.
New varieties are important to get the attention of consumers and the eye-catching colour of blush pears succeed very well in achieving this. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for blush pears, which are pears with a rosy, pinkish-red skin colour. These pears are becoming increasingly popular due to their sweet, juicy flesh and unique appearance. South Africa has responded to this trend by increasing its production of blush pears and is now one of the largest suppliers of this variety to Northern European markets.
Pear specialist Christo Strydom explains that for new plantings growers are largely focusing on blush pears. From 2016-2021, the number of hectares of Forelle, Rosemarie, Cape Rose and Celina in South Africa increased by more than 20% and today blush pear varieties make up more than 40% of the country’s pear orchards. Over the past few years, strong growth from the blush pear subcategory has seen good growth in the industry, making South Africa one of the world leaders in the production of blush pears.
The South African-bred Culdevco early blush variety Cheeky® is very popular, both with growers and in the market. It was first registered in 2009 and has proved to be a very popular variety, both locally and internationally. Culdevco has also recently released a promising new early blush pear called Rosy-Lwazi, and early feedback on this low chill pear has also been very positive.
Climate change is having a significant impact on fruit production around the world, and the South African pear industry is no exception. To respond to this challenge, through Culdevco, the industry has been investing in the development of low-chill new pear varieties that are better suited to the country’s changing climate. These varieties require less chilling during the winter months, making them better adapted to the warmer and more unpredictable weather patterns that are becoming increasingly common in South Africa.
Above: TP 15-41/Eden Gold™, from the Ben-Dor program, managed by Topfruit in South Africa.
In addition to the blush pear trend, there are other exciting new varieties under evaluation, as South African intellectual property management company Topfruit is currently commercialising an exciting new pear variety, TP 15-41/Eden Gold™, from the Ben-Dor program in Israel. This yellow pear shows very little blush and has a deliciously juicy texture. From a grower’s perspective, this early variety is valued for its timing of entry to the market, good production, and excellent storage ability. This variety also has very low chill requirements.
SOURCE: Hortgro News, January 2023.