Namibian table grape exporters are finding themselves in an unusual situation this year at the start of the Southern African season.
Delays elsewhere in the region have left the Namibians with less competition in the UK and European markets from these sources at the start of the campaign.
The first shipments from Namibia started some 14 days before the early regions in South Africa, and logistics operators said that they had been in full swing for more than a month.
Many of these shipments will have arrived by this weekend, in time for the last week of Christmas sales.
Namibian exporters said that they were presently experiencing good demand in the UK and Europe and, while there is still some way to go, the region is still expected to export around 7.4m cartons this year. This signals growth compared with the past few years.
With Christmas approaching, Namibian sources have said that 40 per cent of their crop has already been shipped.
Reports indicate that new varieties such as Jack's Salute and Sweet Globe, an exciting mid-season white seedless variety with a very crunchy texture, are expected to set new standards this year.
Seldom before have the table grape growers in Namibia been so spoiled for choice when it comes to the potential of exciting new varieties. In fact, all the leading table grape breeding programmes are involved with the Namibian industry.
Sources said that there is at any one time between 60 and 100 new or fairly new cultivars available from which growers should choose when they develop new vineyards.
This is the most significant indication of major transformation in the Namibian industry, and it also has importance for the whole of Southern Africa’s table grape business.
South Africa is already among the leading countries in the world when it comes to introducing registered or branded and royalty bearing varieties.
With Namibia also now fast changing, the older varieties which are offered in the early part of the season may well soon reach the stage where they are no longer preferred.
Observers said that all growers in the various grower regions would have to assess what works best for them, but in the end consumers and the trade will determine the future of these varieties.
The Namibian season will soon be over with the last grapes to be packed in week one of 2021. However the Southern African season will still continue to April.