Because of its ease of culture, high nutritious value and popularity of processed products, guavas are important in international trade as well as in the domestic economies of numerous countries. The most important producers of guavas and their products are the Republic of China, South Africa and the USA (Hawaii).
The most important guava producing areas in South Africa are Mpumalanga, Limpopo Province and the Western Cape. Guavas were originally produced mainly for the canning industry, but now more are used in the juicing industry and the fresh market has also become very important. The importance of the industry in South Africa is shown in the approximate value of the crop. In 2001/02 the total value of approximately 22 900 tonnes of guavas was R23.2 million. The value of guava production has increased significantly the past year when compared to the production.
The guava industry in South Africa has not shown much growth the past few years and has declined when compared with production figure in the 1980's. This is mainly due to problems experienced with guava wilt disease, and the unsuitability of 'Fan Retief' as fresh market guava. However, there is potential for expansion especially as the guava offers numerous opportunities for value adding and agri-processing particularly in rural areas. An important aspect of expanding guava production into rural areas is information dissemination and technology transfer.
The ARC-ITSC has been involved in guava research since the seventies. This research has resulted in the release of guava wilt disease resistant rootstocks, improved pruning techniques and cultivation practices which in turn have led to improved yields of quality fruit. Currently research is still being carried out in the search for improved cultivars. If acceptable cultivars with few seeds were to become available the potential for expansion of the fresh fruit market exists.
The cultivated guava (Psidium guajava L.) belongs to the Myrtaceae family, which includes many of the spices, such as clove, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. The eucalyptus, bottle brush, rose apple, jaboticaba, wax jambo, and the feijoa (pineapple guava) are some of the other trees belonging to this family.
Besides the commercial guava, the genus Psidium contains numerous species such as the strawberry guava (P. cattleianum), the berg guava (P. montanum) and the Costa Rican guava (P. friedrichsthalianum) (Popenoe, 1948). The cultivated guava was originally designated by Linnaeus as two different species, namely P. pomiferum (apple-shaped guava) and P. pyriferum (pear-shaped guava), according to the shape of the fruits. They were later grouped together as the present P. guajava (Bailey, 1927).
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