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Fred Meintjes


Orange River harvest in full swing

South Africa’s biggest early season table grape region bounces back after late start, with normal weekly volumes now being shipped

Orange River harvest in full swing

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The South African table grape season has seen a late start, but with the Orange River in full production, shipped volumes are increasing rapidly.

The country's charge so far this season has been led by the Northern Province where at the end of week 49, volumes have already exceeded last year’s record exports.

In the Orange River at the end of week 49, 4.8m cartons had been packed, lagging behind the volume of 6m cartons packed at the same time last year.

In total 7.3m cartons had been shipped by week 50, compared with last year’s 8.9m cartons and 11.3m cartons in 2016/17. This is also well short of the 9.2m cartons shipped in the 2015/16 season.

SATI says South Africa is still expected to ship between 63.2m and 70.1m cartons this season, which will be an improvement on last year’s 62m cartons.

It seems as if the late season is affecting shipments to the east as much as to the traditional markets, although the European Union and the UK so far have been the target of 81 per cent of exports.

For all markets shipments are lagging behind last year, except for the Middle East, which is not a huge market in terms of normal overall South African shipments, but which has received more this year compared with the same period of 2017.

So far, 64 per cent of the early shipments have been white seedless, with red seedless making up 27 per cent.

For the growers in the Northern regions this could be another stellar season, at least as far as volume is concerned. By week 49 nearly 4m cartons had been packed and the region seems to be on target to reach the ‘high’ prediction of 7.5m cartons which SATI included in its forecast.

This would mean that this region will achieve volume growth of near 60 per cent over the past four years. The Orange River, if present favourable conditions continue, could again reach the 20m carton mark this season.

Over the next weeks the harvesting in the Olifants River region will also come on stream. This region is hoping to recover from last year’s devastating drought and could possibly end on the same volume as in 2016/17 provided that conditions remain favourable.

In the late region, the Hex River Valley, where some growers over the past two years packed some of their earliest grapes before Christmas, the season is expected to only really get underway early in January.

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