The first South African grapes of the new season are expected to be shipped this weekend, amidst indications that the total forecast could be affected by recent hot conditions in some growing regions.
The first shipments are expected to arrive in Europe in about two weeks.
Growers in the north of the country, also known as the Bushveld region, kicked off their export harvest this week, with the first grapes already supplied to the local market.
“We are on track to ship around 7m cartons this year which will be another landmark for us,” said Gert Smit, SATI’s director from the region.
The Bushveld exported just over 6m cartons last year and another increase this year will confirm its long term growth, the result of increased plantings of some of the best new table grape varieties available.
This region is unique because it lies in the summer rainfall area and growers have had to adapt production practices to meet the challenges this presents.
Bushveld growers now annually open the South Africa table grape export season, delivering fruit to customers in the UK and Europe some ten days earlier than the Orange River.
If all goes well with the South African table grape harvest, the country could export just over 70m cartons this coming season.
However, recent high temperatures in the Orange River and other Western Cape regions have somehow dampened these prospects.
Orange River growers have said that the hot weather at the crucial flowering time could bring about a drop in volumes, although it is still very early in the season and the true picture will only emerge later.
The Bushveld region said its shipments could vary between 6.7m and 7.5m cartons. Smit noted that the growers from the region have proved they can grow the most unique varieties just as well as growers in other parts of South Africa, with varieties such as Cotton Candy, Candy Heart, Candy Crunch, Sweet Sapphire, Sweet Globe, Autumn Crisp, Tawny Seedless and Sweet Celebration increasingly planted.
The growers in the region are located furthest from South Africa’s major grape export port, which is Cape Town.
“We are 1,600 kms away from Cape Town and 750 kms from Durban," said Smit. "Our logistics cost is therefore high and require the highest degree of dedication from us to be successful. We have no doubt that our region will become increasingly successful in the world’s table grape markets, also in markets outside the UK and Europe.”