Differing fortunes for grape shippers

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Fred Meintjes

BY FRED MEINTJES

Differing fortunes for grape shippers

As Namibia celebrates a record table grape export crop, South African growers on the other side of the Orange River are not so fortunate

Differing fortunes for grape shippers

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The Namibian grape export season ended this week with the total export volume reaching 4.5m cartons, up on last year’s record of 4.3m cartons.

However, on the South African side, growers along the Orange River will have to further reduce their estimate.

What started at a pre-season estimate of 17m cartons of table grapes, and has since been adjusted to around 15m cartons, will now almost certainly drop further.

"After the frost last year we reduced the forecast to 15m cartons, but we can now see there is not enough grapes to make this volume,” says Piet du Plessis, spokesman for the growers’ association ORPA. “We expect a further drop of 15 per cent, which will mean that we will drop below 13m cartons for the first time in many years.”

Further to the south in the Cape region, growers in the Paarl region will only start packing in earnest from next week because their season is two weeks late.

“The weather has not been in our favour,” explains Altus Kirsten from JD Kirsten Farms in Paarl. He referred to widespread rain over the Cape region during recent days which has also caused disruptions in packing in the late region, the Hex River Valley.

Veteran grower Anton Viljoen (snr) says that although the weather has started clearing up, the Hex Valley had some 70 millimetres of rain this week. “This has disrupted packing of the early varieties Flame Seedless, Sugraone, Rally Seedless, Prime Seedless and the black seedless variety Midnight Beauty," he explained. "The upside is that these varieties represent only 3 per cent of our crop and the later varieties are not affected.”

By contrast, Namibian Grape Company’s Andre Vermaak says the Aussenkehr region had a great season.

“We had some really good weather in the run-up to the season and reports from the markets are that the grapes are standing up very well," he notes.

Vermaak says there is great excitement in the Namibian industry following this season.

“Another 360ha have been planted recently and this alone will push our export volume from Namibia to over 6m cartons when the vineyards are in full production. It is quite possible that by 2020 we will be shipping 10m cartons into the early grape market.”

He says shipments to the Middle East and Far East this season have also been very successful.

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