The Southern African blueberry season started in July for the Rooted Global Fruit Company, with blueberries accounting for 42% of Rooted’s business and a doubling of their blueberry intakes from South African and Zimbabwean growers this year.

To further ensure continuity, Rooted also offers blueberries grown in the far north of Namibia by Mashare Berries, on the banks of the Kavango River. Ryno Palm, marketing director at Rooted visited Mashare Berries earlier this month.

“We are excited to grow the Namibian blueberry business with Mashare Berries. I was impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit of Lourens Le Grange and Izak Grobbelaar when I visited the farm earlier this month. The packhouse compares with the best that I have seen.”

He credits Transworld Cargo’s Fritz Kaufmann for giving them peace of mind when it comes to the cold warehousing and freight forwarding of the berries. “The tarred road from Rundu to Windhoek (715 km) and direct Qatar Airways-flights, three times a week from the Hosea Kutako International Airport, are a huge time and cost saver.”

It is encouraging to see, Ryno remarks, how the local community is being uplifted through the employment opportunities created by Mashare Berries.

Namibia plays significant role in keeping blueberry offer consistent

Ankia Rabie-Gerber, Rooted’s marketing director based in Hong Kong, notes: “Mashare Berries gives steady continuity to our berry offer. Zimbabwe brings the early blues and Namibia now plays a significant role in keeping our offer consistent and of high-quality until South Africa (Western Cape and Limpopo) concludes the six month berry campaign in mid-January.”

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“We hope to double our supply from Namibia as well next year, when their blueberries will be full-bearing,” Ryno adds. “After a relatively dry winter, we definitely need all the the rain that we can get at the moment. Rain has almost always been part of the blueberry packing season in the Western Cape, being a winter rainfall area, and we manage programmes and packing accordingly.”

Majority of South-East Asian customers willing to pay a premium for quality

“We have a strong focus on South-East Asia with an even spread in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia,” Ankia says.

“Eastern culture places a high value on fresh fruit and shoppers will take their time when choosing only the best for their family,” she remarks; she lives only a train ride away from the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market in Hong Kong where she personally checks on Rooted’s wholesale shipments.

“As a Hong Kong resident I also regularly visit the supermarkets in and around town to check on Rooted’s blueberry displays and to make sure that the fruit meet and exceed our specifications. At the same time, I find it interesting and insightful to study the in-store behaviour of the fruit-buying consumers.”

Peruvian seafreight blueberries are currently the biggest competition to South African blueberries. They observe that it remains a challenge to consistently exceed their customers’ quality expectations while being subject to a forever challenging cost structure.

“That said,” Ryno says, “Rooted will always provide sustainable returns to the grower. The majority of South-East Asian-customers are willing to pay a premium for quality fruit. That’s why we currently transport about 80% of our blueberries by air.”

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CREDIT: FreshPlaza

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