Reefer shipments mark change for South African grapes in Europe

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Reefer shipments mark change for South African grapes in Europe

The first shipment of South African grapes has arrived in the Netherlands in time to hit Dutch supermarkets for Christmas sales. Knud Reefer 1

Earlier this week the vessel Knud Reefer arrived at Kloosterboer in Vlissingen, Holland, where an army of workers were on hand to take delivery of the white grapes.

The inaugural batches of fruit were exported from Cape Town two weeks ago as part of an agreement between the Dutch company and South African authorities. In total, four deliveries will be made to the Netherlands; the second will arrive on Dec. 30 and the remaining two shipments are scheduled for January.

Staff from Kloosterboer were expected to spend all day and evening unloading a total of 4,400 pallets, which also contained other stonefruit like apricots, peaches and nectarines. Grape varieties, including flame seedless, prime seedless, early sweet, starlight, sugrathirteen and Dan Ben Hannah, have been sourced from around 23 different growers.

The Knud Reefer arrived at 9am on Dec. 16 after leaving Cape Town on Dec. 2. Once pallets were unloaded, the vessel was set to go onwards to Portsmouth in the U.K. where, after a 16-hour journey, approximately 2,400 pallets of white grapes were expected to be delivered to the British market.

"It is very important for the grapes to be in the supermarkets in time for the Christmas sales and we are doing everything we can to make that happen," said Kloosterboer customer services coordinator, Monica Pouwer.

"We are on schedule and everything is going well. The weather forecast is good and we do not anticipate any problems. This is a very exciting day for us," she said.

She said the safe arrival of the grapes had been hailed as an extra special success because it came a year after "an exporting disaster" in 2012 when there were serious delays in the export of South African grapes.

The fruit did not get to market in time for Christmas because of loading problems in Cape Town's port when high winds prevented crane equipment from being operated.

To ensure the same problems did not happen again this year, South African exporters ditched the container ship and instead used a conventional reefer vessel which is easier and faster to load.

"There was a lot of pressure to get everything right this year. Normally grapes are shipped by container but last year the grapes were too late to get to market which was a disaster of course," she said.

"So, this year we agreed upon a conventional shipment to avoid any potential delays in Cape Town which often experiences bad weather and high winds at this time of the year. We wanted to avoid delays and we’ve managed to do so."

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