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New table grape varieties will boost Colors Fruit basket

New plantings of five new table grape varieties of which ownership was confirmed in favour of Colors Fruit over the past two weeks will considerably boost the marketing activities of the company in future.

High Court rulings in South Africa have boosted the future table grape marketing programmes of South African exporter, Colors Fruit.

The five new Sheehan seedless table grape varieties have been the centre of discussion in the South African table grape industry and the international table grape world since Colors Fruit launched an urgent application in the Cape Division of South Africa’s High Court to challenge a recent decision to end a long standing licensing agreement for the commercialization of the varieties from South Africa.
Colors Fruit asked for the court intervention against Sheehan Genetics, a 100 per cent subsidiary of the AMC Group, and a South African nursery Voor-Groenberg Nursery, after AMC recently advised Colors Fruit that it had decided to end a licensing agreement which was entered into in 2003.

Varieties - Allison and Krissy

The cultivars were developed by well-known American breeder Tim Sheehan, owner of Sheehan Genetics, who died in 2009.

"Colors Fruit brought the cultivars to South Africa during the past eight years and invested R3m to bring five of the cultivars to commercial status and to supply them to growers," says Riaan van Wyk, Managing Director of Colors Fruit.

This process involved a quarantine period of two years, followed by planting the cultivars, improving their performance and evaluating them.

Varieties - Magenta and Melanie

Following three important decisions of the Cape High Court the ownership of the five varieties in South Africa has been settled pending a possible appeal by the respondents. Colors Fruit now owns all the South African material of the varieties and is already well down the line with commercialisation of the varieties.

The court decisions on ownership of the plant material of the varieties in South Africa must be seen as separate from the discussion whether Sheehan Genetics, and AMC Group has the right to cancel the sub-licensing agreement entered into back in 2003. This issue will in future be dealt with under arbitration in London.
While there is still a possibility of the South African respondent, Voorgroenberg Nursery, being granted an application to appeal the court decision to award ownership of the plant material of the five varieties in South Africa to Colors Fruit, it is not clear when the application will be heard or whether it will even succeed.

The High Court has now made three decisive rulings on the matter. Most importantly Colors Fruit was able to take possession of all the vines ready for planting in 2011 and they have now been distributed to South African grape growers who have marketing agreements with Colors Fruit.

This year’s plantings bring the total number of hectares under the new varieties in South Africa

Variety - Melody                           to 162, which is likely to deliver some 700,000

cartons of the varieties once they are in full production.

The series of five varieties, named as Allison, Krissy, Megenta, Melanie and Melody, are all seedless and consist of three light to dark red cultivars, one white and one black variety.

More plantings are expected next year and it is expected that these new cultivars will play and important role in the future new product development in South Africa.
“It is a boost for growers who are constantly searching for the best varieties and our decision to bring them to South Africa was a strategic move in the development of our business,” says Mr Van Wyk.

He says the new varieties have enormous potential. “The red varieties all colour naturally. They naturally give mostly large berries and they deliver harvests of between 5,000 and 7,000 4,5 kg cartons per hectare. They are very producer friendly because very little vineyard work is required. All of them have fantastic storage potential, with Allison being still crispy after 11 weeks.”

Mr Van Wyk says Colors Fruit expects the varieties to do very well in the major markets of the world, particularly in countries such as Canada, China and Russia where consumers favour fleshy and crispy grapes. “Our strategic plan is to increase planting of the new varieties to around 700 hectares which will give us the critical volumes to complete their commercialisation.”

Cherise Collins
Farmsecure Holdings (Pty) Ltd
Office +27 (0) 21 974 4906
Fax 086 658 0376
Mobile +27 (0) 73 250 6045

Publication date: 10/3/2011


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