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Elaine Alexander, SATI
South Africa: Quality of grapes good despite heatwaveThe South African grape season still has around 3 months to run and quality remains good. The growing regions have had to contend with temperatures as high as 48ºC, high even for the South African summer.
Elaine Alexander, executive director of SATI, said high temperatures are not uncommon at this time of the year, but it is unusual to have this heat for such a sustained period. Volumes may also be affected by hail.
The season is likely to close at the end of May/early June, this will depend on the extent of the heatwave, Elaine explains that the northern and orange river regions have now finished packing and regions such as the Berg River are mostly packing Crimson Seedless and Autumn Royal which is expected to finish towards the end of Week 9.
The southern production areas are now moving into late-mid season cultivars such as Redglobe, Crimson Seedless, Autumn Royal and La Rochelle and the quality is still very good.
The Indian grape season is a bit earlier this year and will as with every year overlap the end of the South African season. This should not effect export too much as retailers have pre-arranged programs and different varieties are available as each country's seasons progress. Chile will also enter the European market soon.
The European market is not easy and quite demand driven. SATI is always exploring new markets. Input costs such as materials, fuel and labour are increasing for South African producers but the returns from the traditional markets are not, according to Elaine.
"In response to this producers / exporters are looking towards the Middle and Far East and also Africa, people can't continue to supply markets who can't pay for even a minimum return."
She goes on to say that farm gate prices are increasing unnecessarily, with the Government adding costs for the growers when the EU governments adequately cover food safety issues, retailers also add unnecessary costs.
"The UK remains an important market but we must continue to look for new opportunities."
In the past there have been problems with phytosanitary protocols to the US, but now that a new protocol has been established exports of South African grapes will increase. The bulk of Chile's grape exports go there at the start of their season in January and February before they move onto the UK and Europe in March where they are well established.
For more information:
Miss Rhomona Gounden
South African Table Grape Industry
Tel: +27 21 872 143
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