The Brandwacht and Robertson regions of the Breede River Valley in the Western Cape have always been stepchildren in terms of table grape growing in South Africa’s late growing regions. As far as statistics go, these regions have always been included as part of South Africa’s Hex River Valley region.
The whole region is now receiving a major new injection in plantings, which will see production increase dramatically at both Brandwacht and Robertson in years to come. With the Hex River region already over 20m cartons this past season, the late season production will be a further boost to extend the South African season.
Two South African table grape farmers have teamed up to develop two farms at Brandwacht and plan to build what will be one of the country’s largest packhouses to handle the future crop. Jacques Beukes of Modderdrift Farms in the Hex River Valley and Tebogo Mogashoa of Babirwa Breeders, a new generation grape farmer from Johannesburg, have already planted 62ha of table grapes.
Some distance further to the south, former wine vineyards on the banks of the Breede River, close to Robertson, are also being converted to table grape production. The country’s well-known Karsten Group is involved there, along with neighbouring growers. The Karstens Group founded its table grape business on the Orange River, where it produces grapes on several farms along a 250km strip of the river. In recent years it also acquired farms in the Hex River Valley. It is now able to supply its customers from the start of the South African season in November until the end of April.
“We were really lucky to get two farms next to each other at Brandwacht, and we’re developing 140ha in three phases,” Beukes says. A member of the Hex River’s well-known Beukes family, Beukes was recently also nominated as the Western Cape’s farmer of the year.
In total, R170m (US$12.9m) is being invested by the two parties, with Modderdrift Farms and Babirwa Breeders both holding stakes in the newly formed company – Brandwacht Table Grape Producers and Exporters. The project is expected to add almost 1m cartons of table grapes to the production in South Africa’s late region.
Only seedless varieties are being planted, with Sweet Sapphire and Sweet Celebration from International Fruit Genetics, Sable Seedless and Autumn Crisp from Sun World, and Allison from Special New Fruit Licensing being the most important.
The new packhouse at Brandwacht will be able to handle 1.2m cartons per season. Beukes said the latest international technology will be incorporated and it will be packing fruit by 2018.