South Africa: RSA highlights the sustainability of blueberries

Despite the above, the lower availability of some products that leave the country for sale and the bonds provided by the State have generated greater domestic demand for products that were previously exported.

South African blueberry growers are stepping up their promotional push in Germany by highlighting their fruit's quality and sustainability credentials.

The country expects to ship some 3.000 tonnes to Germany this season, and although this only represents a small volume of the country's exports to the EU, there are long-term ambitions to increase its market share.

Berries ZA highlighted how South Africa's advantageous location makes it an attractive option for retail buyers looking to source fruit with a smaller air and sea footprint.

Additionally, a number of on-farm sustainability initiatives mean that South African blueberries are "the ideal choice for the modern, conscientious consumer."

Blueberries have gained popularity in recent years, with buyers drawn to them for their flavor, convenience, and healthful qualities.

"There are amazing varieties coming out of South Africa," said Elzette Schutte, manager of the industry association Berries South Africa (Berries ZA). “They are a good size, the quality is exceptional and they have a lovely sweet taste. The climate makes the fruit very consistent, so consumers get the same quality experience every time."

South African exporters believe they have so far not fully harnessed the potential of the German market, but seek to rectify that through trade media and digital and print advertising, highlighting South Africa's "beautiful fruit and exceptional taste credentials".

The campaign will be visible throughout the season and in the run-up to Fruit Logistica, where Berries ZA will be available to meet key industry contacts and develop new relationships.

This comes as a sustainability push on South African blueberry farms that addresses consumers' desire for fruit produced in a socially and environmentally conscious way.

Producers have signed up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and a number of projects are being carried out on all farms, including the use of renewable energy, reforestation strategies, biodiversity growth and the implementation of detailed programs waste reduction and recycling.

On the social side, a number of projects are being carried out to improve the lives of local farming communities.

These include the Ernita Sewing company, which provides sanitary products for women and girls who do not have access to them; on-site nurses at 13 production facilities to help create better physical and emotional well-being; support to schools through financial contributions and kitchen construction projects; and the OZblu Academy, which provides educational opportunities both in person and online.

Many individual providers pioneer their own projects as part of their social enterprise commitments.

“We run multi-farm projects in collaboration with retailers and growers themselves, with the goal of improving and supporting the communities where farmworkers come from,” explained Stefan Viljoen, sales manager at BerryWorld SA. “This includes the construction and maintenance of daycare centers, the construction of a library, the improvement of dining rooms and rest areas, and the support of educational and medical initiatives.”

All these initiatives are linked to the general objective of the industry to produce quality products in harmony with the environment and its people.

"Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm, it's about doing more good," Schutte concluded. “These projects have a positive impact on the lives of the people on the farm, in addition to improving the environmental and social impact of the fruit that is grown.

"We know that these issues are important to German consumers, who can rest assured that when they buy and consume delicious South African blueberries, they are choosing fruit that has been produced with the greatest care and attention."

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