Weeks ahead of the season’s first South African grape exports, South Africa’s table grape industry (SATI) released a strong statement on Sept. 22. Growers are expecting a much better season than the previous one.
Last season was one of the toughest since the post-deregulation era two decades ago. Increases in production cost input, freight costs and logistical challenges placed significant strain on producers.
“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,” SATI officials say. “Emphasis has been placed on developing and improving collaborative working relationships within the industry to help address the challenges experienced last season.”
To prepare for the coming season, SATI has worked closely with a number of domestic trade organizations to proactively mitigate against these challenges. Specialist technical support teams are helping growers deliver excellent quality grapes.
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.
Market Access Progress
South African table grape exports have increased year-on-year for the past five years. In fact, over the past four years, exports to the EU have increased by 6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
UK 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.
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.
The coming season
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 UK 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 ships its earliest African grapes from Namibia to the UK, Europe, and Canada as early as November.