UK AMC SNFL Duncan Macintyre

SNFL chairman Duncan Macintyre

Special New Fruit Licensing (SNFL), a subsidiary of Spanish fresh produce company AMC Group, has taken full control of the management of Sheehan, a well-known range of table grape cultivars, in southern Africa.

According to the group, following recent negotiations with previous licence-holder Colors Fruit, SNFL's South African arm now has the sole rights to the varieties in South Africa and Namibia, which means it will exclusively manage and license the fruit.

Duncan Macintyre, chairman of SNFL, said: 'The Sheehan varieties are performing very well in all grape-producing regions in South Africa and Namibia, and now growers can contact SNFL SA to obtain a license to plant these exciting new varieties.'

The announcement makes it clear that the Sheehan Genetics collection includes the trademarked varieties Magenta, Krissy, Timco, Allison, Ivory, Timpson and Melody, together with a large number of new varieties currently under development.

Five cultivars in the Sheehan range are already produced in commercial volumes in South Africa; these are Allison, Magenta, Melody, Krissy and Timco. So far, 450ha have been planted, mostly during 2012 and 2013.

Expansion plan

Wian Mouton, technical manager of SNFL SA, said the group was aiming to plant an additional 320ha this year.

'We estimate that some 300,000 cartons were exported this year,' he added.

Producers are said to be interested in the varieties because they are apparently reasonably labour friendly as far as production is concerned.

Production per hectare is reportedly excellent, and the varieties are understood to colour well, fitting into a marketing window from early mid-season until late.

The UK is currently the major market for Sheehan grapes, but the additional volume of fruit set to become available will also be targeted at Europe and the Far East in future.

Ownership battle

The cultivars were developed by the late US breeder Tim Sheehan's company Sheehan Genetics, now 100 per cent owned by AMC.

In November 2012, a long-running court battle between Colors Fruit and Voor Groenberg Nurseries, alongsideOlyvenbloom Boerdery, Sheehan Genetics, SNFL andSNFL SA, finally came to an end, with South Africa'sSupreme Court of Appeal refusing Colors leave to appeal against a judgement in favour of its ruling thatthe Sheehan plant material belonged to Sheehan Genetics.