South African passion fruits, with larger fruit sizes and a sweeter taste, outsell their Columbian counterparts - the local market's main competition - in Europe, says Garrick Mullin, director at Pico Fresh.
But while South Africa trumps in the export of fresh passion fruit (or granadillas), Columbia far outstrips the country’s with the export of processed passion fruits such as juice and concentrates.
Mullin says Pico Fresh, which exports three-quarters of South Africa’s passion fruit production, is looking towards European for market growth where it is still considered a “niche product”.
“It’s a slow process to introduce more consumers to the product,” Mullin explained in a statement.
“Passionfruit is very price-inelastic and it’s quite an expensive product because of air freight, so even if you dropped the price by 20% or 30%, you wouldn’t sell more passion fruit.”
South Africa exported 700,000 cartons of passion fruits in 2015/16 - roughly 90% to Europe and the United Kingdom.
Mullin says Pico Fresh has seen massive expansion the past few years, driven by a global pulp shortage and expanded market opportunities.
Mullin, however, says the market is nearing saturation as Columbia have also stepped up exports to meet Europe’s yearlong demand.
“There’s a fine balance and I think we’ve reached it,” he says.
In South Africa, there are currently between 150 and 200 hectares of passion fruit plantations.
Mullin explains that South African passion fruit output was once outstripped by Zimbabwe, but farm invasions put an end to a flourishing industry and gave an opening to South African farmers.
“Pico Fresh has since re-established high-density passion fruit orchards under irrigation in Zimbabwe,” he says.