Namibia in 'privileged' table grape position as early season kicks off
The Namibian table grape export campaign is gearing up with growers expecting high production volumes and large berry sizes, due to favorable weather conditions earlier in the growing season. Capespan Namibia's chief operating officer Bernie Denton and Agricultural Business Development Agency (AGRIDEV) farm manager Simon Akwenye tell us more.
"Production is looking very good. The weather has been favorable for growing circumstances and therefore quality is good as well as berry size," Denton tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"As new plantings come in, the volume will keep on increasing on a yearly basis. Therefore the expectation for the coming season from this region is approximately one million cartons more than the previous season.
"The cooler weather will lead to above normal berry size which is good for the marketing of the grapes. We expect high volumes of extra large grapes compared to the previous season."
Early Capespan varieties include Thompson Flame and Early Sweet while Red Globe and Victoria will be packed later, although exactly when will depend on ripening.
The EU is Capespan Namibia's traditional export market, although breaking into larger countries like China would be advantageous as greater production levels from new plantings are part of a longer-term table grape strategy.
"China would be the biggest market to target for Aussenkehr grapes, but currently there is a government protocol in place which does not allow Namibian grapes to go to China directly.
"The biggest challenge would be to develop markets that can consume the grapes grown and planted in Aussenkehr as premium grapes to get the best possible return back to the farm.
"Aussenkehr is a premium growing area for table grapes as water is available 12 months of the year out of the Orange river, and weather circumstances are favorable for growing periods of the vine."
Capespan Namibia has developed a total of 114 hectares over the last two years with the volume of new varieties including Melody and Jack Salute picking up this season.
On top of this, Denton says varietal development programs will continue to boost production levels over time.
"We have our own trial blocks for Giumarra, International Fruit Genetics (IFG) and Sheehan varieties. As we are one of the leaders in new varieties this is important for us as Capespan Farms intends to keep on testing and planting new varieties with high yields, good taste and quality."
Capespan Namibia is based in the capital Windhoek and manages farms belonging to the Namibian Grape Company (NGC) as part of a partnership deal. Over recent years, the land under production has been increased to almost 500 hectares from 268 hectares, producing some of the newest varieties.
Berry size boost for AGRIBUSDEV
Another Namibian table grape grower and exporter, Agricultural Business Development Agency (AGRIBUSDEV), has a relatively small window to enter the European, Asian and Middle Eastern markets before global competition begins.
Simon Akwenye explains how Namibian table grapes are amongst the most sought-after in the world because of the country's lack of rain, excellent climate, and disease- and pest-free fruit.
"The season is looking great with a good production. In terms of volumes, were looking at 150,000 cartons which equates to around 630 metric tons (MT). This is quite a substantial volume for us because we produce and package everything," he tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"We will be offering Thompson seedless with an excellent quality and mostly categorized as large or extra large, all of which is export quality. Berry size has been really good this year and been given an extra boost because of favorable weather.
"We'll also have large quantities of grapes classified as extra large and some of extra, extra large."
Initial harvests have begun for AGRIBUSDEV and now Akwenye is planning the company's export campaign. His strategy is to take full advantage of Namibia's early entry into European and other global markets.
"We are exploring all types of export markets from the EU countries and the U.K. to Asia and the Middle East. We are really trying to minimize risk by distributing to as many markets and as widely as possible. It all depends on prices and how much the clients are willing to offer.
"The market fluctuates and so everything depends on how flooded the market gets. It's usually good during the first few weeks.
"The influx of grapes coming in slightly later from other parts of the world can cause prices to drop, so it's important for us to get into the market as soon as possible. We have a small window to enter the grape market before we start to experience stronger competition from other grape growers."
AGRIBUSDEV also grows in Aussenkehr and has plans for new plantings.
"Many people consider Namibian grapes the most sought-after grapes in the world. The fruit is grown as naturally as possible and we don't expect or experience much rainfall, therefore our grapes remain disease and pest free.
"This also means we use very light and green products which is exactly the direction the global fruit industry is moving towards, as well as what global consumers are actually looking for.
"With the privilege of entering into the market early, we have got the best quality so we are in a superb position and these are the aspects that make our grapes so special. Increasing the land under production is the next step."