Area planted

Tomato plantings for the 2000 season are estimated at 5 515 ha. The Mooketsi area in the Northern Province was the major producing area, with 2 700 ha or 49% of the area planted. Other important regions in terms of hectares under tomato cultivation are the Far North of the Northern Province and the East London area of the Eastern Cape. Growing of tomatoes in tunnels is still on the increase as an important cultivating method in South Africa and at present, about 100 ha of tomatoes are grown in tunnels.


Tomato production in South Africa remained constant over the past three years. The major production areas are Mooketsi, which contributes more than 47% of the total volume of tomatoes produced in South Africa, and Letaba in the Northern Province, Malelane in Mpumalanga, and the Eastern Cape. The total production was approximately 337 890 tons during the 2000 season. The Mooketsi and Far North areas in the Northern Province presented the largest production—162 000 and 38 500 tons, respectively— followed by the Border area in the Eastern Cape, with 36 000 tons.  


The quantity of tomatoes sold on the sixteen fresh produce markets increased by 2,4%, from 258 534 tons in 1998/99 to 264 816 tons in 1999/2000. Johannesburg market sold 30% of the latter figure, followed by Pretoria market with 16% and Cape Town market with 12%.  


The average price of tomatoes declined by 4,3%, from R1 329/ton in 1998/99 to R1 272/ton in 1999/2000. Owing to the adverse effects of the floods in the northern production areas, the fresh produce markets sold 40 000 tons less tomatoes during March, April and May 2000 in comparison with the same period in 1999. Tomatoes are subject to large seasonal price fluctuations, which implies that tomatoes have a high price risk.


The per capita consumption of tomatoes in South Africa is 19 kg per annum, compared to 35 kg in Europe. Population growth, urbanisation, income per capita and the income elasticity of demand for tomatoes are important factors influencing the demand for tomatoes. The average household in South Africa consumes about five to ten tomatoes per week.


Research in the tomato industry is undertaken in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) which has found several remedies for different diseases of tomatoes.

Opportunities and threats

Opportunities for increasing fresh tomato exports are limited owing to the fact that tomatoes tend to compare unfavourably in terms of value to mass. Sun-dried tomatoes are very popular on foreign markets and it appears that demand is increasing in South Africa. There is currently a large shortage of tomato paste in South Africa. It is expected that the demand for this product will also increase in future.

International perspective

The area planted to and production of tomatoes in the world stayed fairly constant over the past five years, with the exception of a mild decrease in 1997. South Africa is not a major exporter of tomatoes. China is the largest producer of tomatoes in the world, followed by the USA, Italy and Turkey. These four countries represent 44% of world production. The tomato producing countries with the highest yields per hectare are the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.