South Africa anticipates average size table grape crop despite drought -

South Africa anticipates average size table grape crop despite drought

South Africa's table grape industry is "concerned" about the persistent drought heavily affecting much of the country, but still expects the 2017-18 harvest to be in line with the five-year average. 

Grower association the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) said the average crop size from the previous five seasons was 57.9 million cartons.

Although certain producers in areas hardest hit by the drought are likely to be "significantly impacted", SATI said the effect at a national level was "less pronounced".

SATI ascribed this expectation to the climatically diverse industry, increased hectares in production, the continued shift to higher yielding new generation varieties and the resilience and adaptation of table grape farmers.

"We as an industry are concerned about the persistent drought in the Western Cape," SATI chairman Michael Laubscher said.

"As an industry we realise that South Africa is a water scarce country, therefore everyone has a responsibility to be water wise," 

SATI hosted seminars at the end of September in the three table grape growing regions in the Western Cape most affected by the drought.

While table grapes are resilient plants, enough water is needed during their different and critical growth stages, it said.

During the seminars leading researchers from SATI, the Agricultural Research Council and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture shared best practice and practical advice on dealing with drought and water stress.

An official from the National Department of Water and Sanitation presented an overview of the status of dams as well as plans to manage remaining water resources.

SATI traditionally releases the first crop estimate at the end of October, when the early production regions have commenced with packing.

However, given the "extraordinary drought conditions" in the Western Cape, a detailed estimate is now due to be released in early November.

"South African producers will still deliver excellent quality to our export markets during the coming season," SATI CEO Willem Bestbier said.

“We are in close contact with the Western Cape Provincial Government as the table grape industry is particularly vulnerable due to its reliance on irrigation. It makes a huge contribution to the employment and economy of the Western Cape and the country."