Production techniques, sustainability and traceability are all high on the agenda in South Africa, the industry body says

Raisin grape sorting Orange RIver South Africa

South African raisin producers are highlighting their world-class agronomy and traceability credentials at a time of increased consumer interest in sustainable farming.

According to industry body Raisins SA, producers in the country have been taking strides to ensure they are at the leading edge of responsible supply.

This includes modern production techniques that put the environment first, and the establishment of an industry-leading Vine Academy & Model Farm.

The Orange River Valley is regarded as one of the best places in the world to grow raisins, with the hot, dry and sunny climate and availability of fresh river water creating ideal conditions.

”Naturally sundried, SA raisins do not sugar easily, are free flowing and contain low to zero residues,” Raisins SA noted. “The industry uses elevated drying facilities to ensure there is minimal sand on the product, which also features a healthy 12-month shelf life.”

Producers are keen to outline all the good work being done behind the scenes to European buyers, chefs and shoppers, particularly in the key export markets of the UK and Germany.

“The agronomy in South Africa is world class,” said Ferdie Botha, chief executive of Raisins SA. “We have developed natural, sustainable and highly efficient production systems that mean consumers can be assured they are enjoying a product that has been created with both the environment and social responsibility in mind.”

According to the industry body, a huge amount of work has been done to ensure maximum traceability, which starts in the field with each drying slab and bin numbered to allow fruit to be tracked back to exactly where it was grown, dried and packed.

Systems are in place to trace the raisins back to the exact batch they were dried in, the bin where they were stored and the consignment in which they were shipped.

Sustainability also extends to social and worker initiatives.

Raisins SA is currently running a project whereby emerging female farmers are helped to work on the construction of their own drying facilities while also being trained in how to prepare the land prior to vineyard planting.

As part of the training, they are taught about the latest fertiliser programmes and vine pruning techniques, Raisins SA continued.

That work is backed by the establishment of the Vine Academy & Model Farm (VAMF) in Kakamas in the Northern Cape, which trains students in the best viticulture practices and educates farmers in new techniques.

VAMF was developed out of a partnership between the Northern Cape Provincial Government and Raisins SA with the aim of addressing specific academic and skills challenges within the vine industry in South Africa.

The academy and model farm focus on the learners and surrounding communities to benefit them directly as a catalyst for sustainable growth and economic development within the agricultural sector.

The course, which is SAQA accredited, offers students the chance to gain academic and practical skills in the vine industry in preparation for employment opportunities in the industry.

“The industry’s commitment to training and research through the Vine Academy is commendable and reinforces this industry’s strength,” said Botha.

“Sustainability credentials are also strong in terms of worker conditions, energy, water and chemical usage.

”There has been substantial investment in ensuring SA raisin production stands up to scrutiny from every angle, which we know is essential to both our customers and end consumers today,” he added.