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Exceptional performance of Northern Cape early black grapes in Vietnam and China

Late Chinese New Year came to aid of South African grapes

A late Chinese New Year which kept the pre-New Year market high for longer, has benefited South African grapes which had to stand in line behind the large volumes of Chilean cherries on the market.

Rutger van Wulfen, owner of Global Fresh Limited, reckons that the season for South African grapes in China should end on a more even keel than last year, thanks to much better brix levels than last year, as well as the stabilising effect brought by the official green trading channel to China.

“Unlike the past four years when the Australian grape season was late, this year they’re on time with the result that there is more fruit on the market, while the season in the Hex is really short,” he says. “Our company sources early red seedless like Crimson from our suppliers around Vanrhynsdorp, in the Olifants River region, loading sixty containers for China before Crimson Seedless starts in the Berg River and Hex. The prices at the moment are Rmb135 to Rmb140, which is nothing spectacular but acceptable levels given the circumstances we’re in.”

On the Chinese market, he does foresee a drop in price when the large volumes from the Hex meet those from Australia and from Chile whose Crimson will also arrive in relatively large quantities. 

Packing of the late varieties like Crimson and Autumn Royal from one of their supplier’s farms around Wellington in the Berg River region will finish up by next week, a week or so earlier than usual, not only because of the drought but also because of less colour on the grapes. The sizing is a bit smaller, as expected, settling on large berries. Packing in the Olifants River wrapped up last week. 

Global Fresh Limited exports around 400,000 4.5 kg cartons to China and Hong Kong, while Global Fresh Asia services mostly retail programmes in Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia with equivalent volumes.

In their newsletter last week, the South African Table Grape Industry noted: ”While packing is continuing briskly, Crimson might finish earlier this season with lower volumes due to the drought.” By the end of week 7 total grape exports were more than 6 million cartons below last year’s YTD volume.

Red seedless makes up the bulk of South Africa’s total grape exports at the moment and it is also the cultivar group most planted in all of South Africa’s production areas, with the exception of the Orange River region.

He feels that producers in South Africa haven’t yet found the right red seedless variety that both appeals to Asian taste buds and gets the right amount of yield per hectare. “There are some new varieties that might comply but we’ll only know this one to two seasons from now.”

Exceptional performance from Northern Cape's early black grapes 
“Early black grapes from the Northern Cape have again performed exceptionally well in Vietnam and China. We manage more large size to China (who buy more on taste and colour) and keep the XL and XXL for Vietnam as they still pay the premium for size.” 

Trade in white seedless, the specialty of the Orange River region, is ebbing off. South Africa only has a tiny window for white seedless in China, at the time of the Northern Cape harvest. “China is looking for milky green fruit with high sugars. Only a few new varieties are qualified for this,” Van Wulfen says. He notes that the older varieties like Prime and Thompson struggle. "Sweet Globe and Arra15 are welcome replacements."

For more information:
Rutger van Wulfen
Global Fresh Limited
Tel: +27 21 657 4000

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