Roughly 95% of South Africa’s table grape crop is exported, and as a result, the current delay experienced in harvesting has resulted in a rush to get the fruit to the markets in time for the Festive Season.
This was according to Willem Bestbier, CEO of the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), who said the delay in harvesting was due to fruit ripening later after a long winter and exceptionally cool spring and early summer.
“It will put strain on the logistics [value chain], particularly [at] our ports, but these potential strains and bottlenecks are currently [being] attended to very well.”
Bestbier said so far in the early production regions, the packing season had been at least 10 to 14 days late, and the fruit was only starting to arrive on the markets now.
“Our early observations of early Southern Hemisphere [fruit] on the market and the tail end of the Northern Hemisphere [volumes] are encouraging in the sense that prices seem to be supportive and at levels where there is a good flow-through of product.”
Around 70% of South Africa’s table grape exports went to Europe and the UK, while the remainder was spread quite widely across Asia, the Middle East, Canada and the US.
The first crop estimate for the 2020/2021 season was released at the end of October, with intake volumes estimated to be between 65 million and 69,8 million cartons (4,5kg equivalents).
“This signals an expected return to normal industry volumes, and reflects a marginal growth in hectares planted over the past six years.”
Over the past five years, the crop intakes had been 66,15 million for 2019/2020; 61,13 million for 2018/2019; 62,06 million for 2017/2018; and 67,58 million for 2016/2017 of 4,5kg equivalent cartons.
Anton Viljoen, a table grape farmer in the Hex and Berg river regions, said the slight delay in harvesting meant possibly missing the delivery window to get the fruit to market before Christmas, especially for the early production areas.
“The main markets for the earlier varieties are Europe and the UK, and it takes around three weeks from harvesting to get the fruit on the [shelf].”