Orange River sets grape record

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Fred Meintjes


Orange River sets grape record

Early table grape region ships record volumes despite challenging conditions

Orange River sets grape record

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South Africa’s biggest early table grape region has set a new export record with more than 20m cartons being harvested despite fears about rain.

South Africa’s early table grape regions have surpassed expectations and have shipped record volumes of grapes despite challenging climatic conditions. The Orange River region has broken through the 20m carton barrier and could well be the leading South African grape region when the dust settles on the 2016/17 season.

In the northern parts of South Africa grape growers have also had a bumper crop, shipping 15 per cent more than last season.
Observers say that the expected surge in table grape production in South Africa has finally arrived and new strategies will be required to deal with this in future.

SATI, the industry body, recently confirmed that the South African table grape sector was still on target to reach its pre-season forecast of between 61m and 63m cartons. This compares with a total export volume of 59m cartons last year.

SATI has not issued a new forecast yet since the better than expected performances in the early regions have come to light, but they may well have to do so soon. In the mid-season Olifant’s River area the crop is running ahead of forecast, but in the Paarl region it is slightly behind last year.

With the harvest in the Orange River just about over, growers have packed just over 20m cartons compared with last year’s 18.53m cartons. In 2014/15 the region packed 17.37m cartons, and 13.67m in 2013/14.

In the Olifant’s River, the Berg River and the Hex River regions the weather has been very good and it is generally expected that they will exceed expectations if current conditions prevail. Good news for markets in the Far East and South East Asia is that the Crimson Seedless crop is reported to be running ahead of expectations and South Africa may well export a higher volume of this variety.

From a marketing point of view the season will not be easy. While shipments to Europe is more or less on par with last season, there is a drop of close to a half million cartons so far this year to the United Kingdom. This is not surprising if one remembers that the British Pound has decline between 25 and 30 per cent against the South African Rand since last season, the Rand has also strengthened significantly against the Euro.

Shipments to the Middle East is also down so far this season compared to last season, but volumes have increased significantly to the Far East and South East Asia.

Shipments to Canada has more than doubled this season, without industry sources being able to give any particular reasons. On the other hand shipments to Russia so far this season is less than half of last year’s volumes.

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