The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have shone a spotlight on the importance of adaption to climate change. However, progress in achieving SDG 12 which calls for, “responsible consumption and production” has been stalled by the unavailability of indicators that adequately capture and motivate increased responsible consumption. To fill this gap, this article presents an alternative indicator that makes use of cultivar characteristics and uses South African fresh peach and nectarine exports as a focus area. Principal component analysis is used to extract and summarize the product value propositions identified in composite indices that were constructed by weighting the proportional use of cultivars in exports between 1956 and 2017. The indices acquired from the analysis were found to measure the provisions for sustainable consumption, good-quality fruit and off-peak fruit supply. The study’s results show that progress was found in the provisions for sustainable consumption and this was mainly driven by improvements in cultivars’ climate change adaptability. However, the last two decades have been characterized by years of successive lower readings on this index. Improvements in fruit quality index were found to be attained at the expense of farm enterprise productivity. The study concludes that strategies be developed to encourage the use of cultivars that promote responsible consumption as, if left uninfluenced, market forces will spur unsustainable production.
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