SA grape growers predict a good season for exports

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SA grape growers predict a good season for exports

South African grape producers have said the season so far is looking rosy with exports set to exceed 225,000 metric tons (MT) by the end of the harvest.

They told the size and colour of grapes was good and current weather conditions were excellent for a healthy and large crop.

AS Viljoen Boerdery & Seuns head of grape production at Berg River Valley and Hex River Valley regions Anton Viljoen Jr,  said his company had started harvesting in the northern part of South Africa.

"We have very good size and color and the weather is still good with no rain," he said.

Despite volumes of white seedless being a little low he said this was not a problem as they represented a small percentage of the crop.

"We are busy with Flame Seedless which is looking good and has a good color. It's looking very promising."

Grape Alliance marketing manager Leon de Kock was equally optimistic.

"It is looking as good as it can get. The best it has been in five years."

Capespan's head of marketing for Russia, the Middle East and Africa Sarel Joubert agreed.

"The quality we are seeing is excellent. The weather is playing along nicely."

Growers were upbeat about export conditions describing Europe as currently empty of grapes and pleased about the rand's favorable exchange rate.

Although, Joubert warned that the rand could be quite volatile.

"The rand is weaker so at the moment it is more favorable, however, it's quite unstable. It can change overnight which makes it difficult to plan."

Both Viljoen and de Kock said they were keen to nuture alternative markets such as the Far East, Middle East and other African countries.

Viljoen said that the Far and Middle East offered the advantage of fixed as opposed to consignment pricing which is prevalent in Europe.

He said he was busy increasing volumes of grapes popular with this market such as Crimson Seedless, Autumn Royal, Red Globe and Sugraone.

Currently Europe accounts for 60% of his exports with the U.K. 20% and the Far and Middle East 20%.

De Kock agreed that nurturing other markets in addition to Europe was important.

He said northern Europe and the U.K. currently accounted for 55% of his exports but the Far and Middle East and other areas including African countries stood at 20%.

Although, the amount his company sends to African countries is tiny at 2.25 MT a year he sees volumes increasing exponentially.

"It's moving at quite a speed. Big supermarket chains are opening in Botswana and Zambia.

"There are three supermarkets in the whole of Zambia but in two years' time there may be 12."

He said that sales were also increasing in West Africa.

"It is something which is very exciting for the future."

The South African Table Grape Industry (SATGI) is forecasting exports of between 225,000 to 234,000 MT although De Kock thinks it could reach 247,500 MT.

Last year's season was particularly tough for producers as floods affected harvests leading to lower than expected volumes.


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