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Breakthrough for South African table grapes in China

According to South African table grape producers and exporters, one of the
biggest breakthroughs since deregulation in agriculture has just been confirmed by the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). The producer organisation SATI is delighted that China changed the cold treatment protocol of South African table grapes to a more fruit friendly protocol. This creates a market opportunity to increase table grape exports from South Africa to China to about R2,5 billion over the next five years.

Willem Bestbier, Chief Executive Officer of SATI, receives the new protocol from Wu Hao, Director of Biosecurity at the China Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) organisation, with the South African Counsellor for Agriculture in Beijing, Mashudu Silimela.

DAFF has just confirmed that China’s cold treatment protocol is immediately effective from the 2016/2017 season. The new protocol has changed to +0.8 Degree Celsius for a minimum of 20 days (it was -0.6 Degree Celsius for 22 days). Although this exciting market for South African table grapes has been open, the previous protocol held unaffordable risks in the form of cold related damage to grape berries and stems.

SATI’s chairperson, Michael Laubscher, described this opportunity as a big milestone for SATI that was initiated with commercial urgency and completed successfully. “This will make China more accessible for South African producers and make our produce more competitive.”

“SATI believes this breakthrough will enable producers and exporters to realise the enormous potential in China. We hereby acknowledge DAFF and all the other role players who enabled us to achieve this breakthrough,” said Laubscher.

According to Willem Bestbier, Chief Executive Officer of SATI, the breakthrough was made possible through an extraordinary and applied research project that SATI specially commissioned in January 2015 with Dr Tony Ware as researcher. “Supported by these research results experts in DAFF, led by Alice Baxter and her team, as well as support from SATI ensured the protocol was changed in record time.”

According to an economic study about the market for table grapes in China, conducted by Dr Hoppie Nel in 2014, the estimated loss of income for South Africa was R214 million, due to the loss of quality, market share and the price difference caused by the previous cold treatment protocol.

The Chinese market for table grapes – with imports of table grapes worth nearly $600 million in 2014 – is the 5th biggest import market and shows the biggest growth by far at 30% per year over the past five years (2010-2014). The Chinese market is also one of the markets that pay a premium for imported grapes.

Although South-Africa was the fourth biggest exporter of table grapes to China in 2014, with 10 000 tons (2015, 10 600 tons), the protocol prevented any significant increase. Peru and Chile exported a combined 150 000 tons to China in 2004, mainly due to these countries receiving lower import tariffs and less stringent cold treatment protocols than South Africa.

The new protocol and improved market opportunity presents table grape producers with the opportunity to establish new vineyards to serve China, which could lead to the creation of a number of new local job opportunities.

This breakthrough for the South African table grape industry, once again shows that, with good cooperation between the government and agriculture, a significant contribution can be made to the primary goals of the National Development Plan, namely job creation, rural development and the earning of foreign revenue.

For more information:
Willem Bestbier

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