Weeks ahead of the season’s first South African grape exports, South Africa’s table grape industry released a strong statement on Sept. 22. The indication is that its growers are ready for a much better season than the last.
The South African Table Grape Industry uses the acronym SATGI. But SATI is a simpler a reference for its grape association.
SATI’s statement explained that last season was one of the toughest since the postderegulation era two decades ago. Increases in production cost input, freight costs and logistical challenges placed significant strain on producers.
SATI indicates South Africa’s table grape industry “is ready once again to confirm its status as a preferred supplier of table grapes in international markets. Producers and stakeholders have been proactively planning, assessing how to improve quality on the farm and mitigate as much risk as possible during the transportation of the product.
mphasis has been placed on developing and improving collaborative working relationships within the industry to help address the challenges experienced last season. Significant progress has been made, and South Africa is ready to confirm its status as a quality Southern Hemisphere table grape supplier.”
To prepare for the coming season, SATI has worked closely with a number of domestic trade organizations to proactively mitigate against these challenges and allow the industry to move forward.
Specialist technical support teams are helping growers deliver excellent quality grapes through best producing, packing, and shipping techniques.
SATI says ongoing on-farm production improvements, which include:
• Post-harvest protocols and product handling
• Quality and crop control
• Monitoring and maintaining optimal cold-storage temperatures. In collaboration with producers and exporters, SATI is currently developing a cold-chain project to monitor temperatures from the packhouse to the marketplace.
• Packhouses. Producers pack their own fruit in on-farm packhouses as far a possible – a significant capital and resource investment that is indicative of producers’ ongoing commitment to growing and exporting quality product.
South African table grape exports have increased year-on-year for the past five years. SATI is committed to maintaining the industry’s established markets while pursuing market development efforts in emerging markets. South Africa remains a quality Southern Hemisphere producer to our traditional markets, and export figures provide positive indicators of the industry’s expansion in the Northern hemisphere.
Over the last four years exports to the EU have increased by 6 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
U.K. exports have remained steady, displaying a 4 percent CAGR increase over the same period. Exports to Canada grew 19 percent CAGR over the last four years. Exports to the USA increased by 40 percent CAGR over the same period and industry is eager to further expand this market.
Compared to other Southern Hemisphere producing countries, South Africa has the advantage of proximity to Europe and free trade agreements with the European Union and the UK.
Further expansion to South-East Asian markets remains one of SATI’s strategic objectives, and significant progress has been made in the Philippines. SATI’s China Market Development Campaign successfully launched two years ago and continued last season despite Covid-19 restrictions in China. Industry looks forward to supplying this market with quality South African table grapes in the 2022-23 season.
To remain aligned with global market trends South African producers have been eliminating less popular cultivars to plant more new generation cultivars. Global consumer trends indicate a preference towards white seedless grapes, and South Africa’s 2022 National Vine Census reflects that producers have remained in line with this trend.
Mecia Peterson, SATI’s market development and communications lead, said Sept. 23 that her group will be releasing its first crop estimate in October. Generally speaking, “the climate has been good for growers.”
South Africa’s earliest grape exports ship in October. There are five shipping areas. In order of their seasonal shipping succession, these are Northern Province, Orange River, Olifants River, Berg River and Hex River.
Peterson said about 75 percent of South Africa’s grape exports are destined for the E.U. and U.K. India, the U.S. and Canada are other markets.
Based in the Montreal headquarters of Capespan North America, Mark Greenberg, president said his firm imports grapes from South Africa, Peru, Chile for the U.S., and Canadian markets.
Capespan will start receiving South African grapes into North America in the first weeks of January with arrivals continuing into April.
Capespan ships large volumes to Canada and lesser volumes to the U.S. because of USDA phytosanitary regimen. The U.S., Greenberg says, brings a rigorous regimen which is risky to growers.
Capespan ships its earliest African grapes from Namibia to the U.K., Europe, and Canada as early as November. Namibia grapes do not have the approvals to enter the U.S. for phytosanitary reasons.
In South Africa, Capespan is licensed to produce and export Sun World and IFG table grape varieties. Capespan North America is also licensed to sell these varieties in Canada and the U.S. These are mostly new, high-taste proprietary varieties. AUTUMNCRISP, Sable, Scarlotta, Sweet Globe, Sweet Celebration, Jack Salute. And the high sugar specialties such as Candy Snaps and Cotton Candy.
Capespan packs South African grapes in clear pouch bags and clear bags with UPC codes and relevant product information.
Greenberg said all South African table grape exports to North America are shipped in refrigerated containers.
When Le Roux Group, based in Wellington, South Africa, was contacted, a man indicates: “We don’t ship until January. It is way too early to talk about the crop.”