The processing of fruit and vegetables is a sector of the agro-processing industry that has become increasingly important to South African manufacturing and was worth R14.6bn in 2015.
There were 55,105 people employed in food processing activities during the second quarter of 2016, with an estimated 15,000 working directly in factories processing fruit and vegetables. Due to the industry's close linkages with primary agriculture, fruit and vegetable processing also supports more than 100,000 on-farm labourers.
Growth and Consolidation
While horticultural production fluctuates and the industry experiences occasional supply shortages, the sector is expanding and consolidating. Overall the total volume of purchases for processing has increased, driven by investment into processing facilities and the consequent expansion of processing capacity.
The consolidation of the sector has been driven in recent years by the Rhodes Food Group, which has acquired a number of companies involved in fruit and vegetable manufacturing.
Importance of Exports
The fruit and vegetable processing sector supplies both foreign and local markets and according to the South African Fruit and Vegetable Canners Export Council, some 82% of locally canned fruit is exported annually.
In 2015 the industry exported processed fruit and vegetables to the value of R7.77bn, with fruit juice accounting for nearly 50% of this figure. Although the United Kingdom, the European Union and North America have historically been the country's primary international markets, China has been identified as the fastest-growing export market for processed fruit products.