Our Burning Planet

FOOD INSECURITY

How do you like them apples? Pick n Pay helps farmers to sell their hail-damaged fruit

How do you like them apples? Pick n Pay helps farmers to sell their hail-damaged fruit
(Photo: Unsplash / KOtagauni Srinivas)

There’s nothing wrong with the fruit, which is all the more reason for buying the slightly flawed produce.

Around 10 million tonnes of food are “lost” or wasted each year in South Africa, with about a third of the food supply intended for humans believed to end up in landfills. Most of that food is thrown away by consumers, not farmers, as they shun misshapen or bruised fruits and vegetables that are deemed “imperfect”.

In an economic environment that is increasingly under pressure from rolling blackouts, adverse weather, deteriorating infrastructure and crime, our country is already at risk of heightened food insecurity, warned PwC in its sixth South Africa Economic Outlook report for 2023.

A significant proportion of damage to fresh produce is caused by environmental factors, and with hail becoming increasingly common in the Western Cape, the province’s growers have collaborated with Pick n Pay to sell hail-damaged apples.

The fruit was damaged in the Ceres area in November and in the Langkloof in February and March.

Apples are stored in a controlled atmosphere room where the temperature, oxygen, CO2 and humidity levels are adjusted to “hibernate” the fruit for months. 

Global trade media platform Fresh Plaza reports that Good Hope Fruit and Dutoit Agri have partnered with PnP on the “Hail to the Heroes” campaign, which will see perfectly good fruit marketed to avoid volume losses and a potential risk to jobs.

The campaign is also aimed at helping educate consumers that an apple’s appearance does not always reflect its internal quality, and in the case of a hail-damaged fruit, the “scar tissue” merely shows that the superficial wounds from hail had healed.

Available in store from next month, the hail-damaged apples will carry stickers with a code to access more information.

It’s the first such campaign of its kind in South Africa. 

Ceres producer Dutoit says climate change is expected to increase the severity and frequency of hail in the province, with the head of technical, Linde du Toit, adding that the campaign will be encouraging consumers to look beyond “looks” and give the damaged fruit a chance.

As the effects of climate change worsen, farmers are under increasing pressure from changing weather patterns, sunburn, hail, increases in pests and diseases, and plant stress due to drought – or an abundance of rain. 

At Hortgro Science’s technical symposium last year, Prof Stephanie Midgley of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture discussed studies that focused on the impact of climate change on the Western Cape fruit industry.

All the available models agreed on a drying trend over the western parts of South Africa where a decrease of more than 40mm per annum is projected, especially for the core winter rainfall areas.

The main area of concern is the West Coast and Koue Bokkeveld during autumn and spring. Rainfall shows a decreasing trend in autumn when, she said, “we’re seeing a very clear drying”. DM

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  • Susan Keegan says:

    Great idea and a good news story but please get real about climate change. It has always existed. Hail has been damaging crops since the days of Moses. It’s an unnecessary reference in an otherwise encouraging article.

  • brian.kantor says:

    If the (relative) price is right the damaged fruit will be welcomed. It is the low price of lower quality fruit in fruit growing regions that encourages the export of the highest quality fruit – at higher prices that locals with access to cheaper fruit are willing to pay.

  • Alan Watkins says:

    France has an interesting take on something like this. Windfall apples (those blown off trees before picking) are collected and used to make apple brandy also called Calvados. Apart from recovering what would otherwise go to waste, this is a great value added product.

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