The cultivated wild berry has numerous cultivars which have been given the collective name of young berry in South Africa. The late Prof O S H Reinecke imported the first young berry plants from Australia in 1939.
It is, sadly, a declining industry in South Africa. There is just a small band of young berry farmers in the Swellendam area where over 90% of the total annual crop of just over 600 tons is produced.
This fall in numbers is not really due to low market prices, but rather to the endless problems associated with wind and rain damage or too much heat, pest attacks and insufficient labour during the peak harvesting period from mid-November to early December.
It is also expensive to establish a young berry plantation. Apart from the soil preparation and planting, there is regular weed and pest control, the building of irrigation and plant support systems, plus the labour extensive and very intricate task of hand-twining the shoots along the training wires.
A well cared for young berry plantation can, however, yield between seven and nine tons per hectare for fifteen years. Most young berries end up in cans or as fruit juice, as the fresh fruit market is limited.