South Africa forecasts rise in table grape volumes
The South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) has forecast this season's crop to be 61.1-63 million 4.5-kilo-equivalent cartons, marking a 5-9% year-on-year rise.
SATI said the figures for its first estimate represented a 'normal' crop for the industry.
The lower limit reflects an expected return to normal berry and bunch development, while the upper limit takes into account the increasing hectares of new cultivars yielding better pack-outs and growth on total surface area.
In a release SATI said the early production regions had started packing one week earlier than last year, adding the Northern Provinces had enjoyed a good start to the season.
"It is expected that the Orange River Region will have a slower start to the season with early volumes slightly lower compared to the same period last year," it said.
"The region however foresees that a normal pack out will continue after the slow start."
Due to good rains during the winter months, the Olifants River Region does not expect any water restrictions as was the case during the last season and a normal crop is therefore expected.
"The two later regions of the Berg River and Hex River are experiencing reasonably good weather at this stage, although it is still too early to predict any changes in the weather and how it may affect the crop," SATI said.
"However, it is unclear what effect the exceptionally dry and warm weather of the previous season will have on the new crop.
"Furthermore the grip of the worst drought in decades seems to persist in some areas, which could also have an adverse effect on the crop."
A few days ago the industry body announced China had relaxed its cold treatment protocols for South African table grapes, which it said was a major breakthrough for the industry.
The new protocol has changed from -0.6°C for 22 days to +0.8°C for a minimum of 20 days. The previous protocol was said to have held ‘unaffordable risks in the form of cold related damage to grape berries and stems.’
The new protocol is immediately effective from the 2016-17 season and is expected to increase exports to China to about R2,5 billion (US$184 million) over the next five years.