“We’re excited by the quality, it is exceptional this year, and so far our clients are very happy,” says managing director of Capespan Tonie Fuchs. Their first table grapes arrived this week in Europe and the UK. They have already sent significant volumes to North America, the Middle East, Asia and China.
Photos supplied by Capespan
China & Asia: Fewer clients taking more grapes
Since a consolidation phase over the past few years in which they reduced their client base by more than half, they have focused on premium clients and premium retail.
“We have a strong focus to put more volumes into specifically China. Capespan has a well-established name in China, it’s a widely known brand, so we’re consciously trying to grow our China volume this year. China is very particular on the quality and the berry size that they want and we have the perfect quality mix to match their demand.”
Within the next two to three years the company would like to grow the segment of their grapes going to the East and, specifically, China to more than 10%.
Large investment in infrastructure
The company’s grape division has been renewed or upgraded on all fronts over the past few years: on their farms over half of the vineyards were replaced with new varieties, all of their packhouses in Namibia and South Africa have been upgraded. Tonie notes that punnet packaging has gone from 30% to close to 70% of their grapes.
About 20% of their volumes in Namibia are field-packed, which is useful for handling unexpected peaks. Last year Capespan’s field-picking facility in Namibia was the first in the world to receive a BRC accreditation.
Capespan runs the only field-packing facility in the world with British Retail Consortium accreditation
Steady flow of grapes
The delay in the start of the season has not been of particular importance.
“It’s not unmanageable, we’ve had no issues. Our infrastructure has been developed to handle peak volumes in order to serve our customers.”
Grape harvesting is at its peak in Namibia, while in the Northern Cape their easternmost farms in Kakamas had a promising start. By the end of this week it’s already the start of the Western Cape’s northernmost grape-production area in the Olifants River Valley.
Field-packing in Namibia
“It’s still too early to say definitively, but so far we're pleased with the volumes and especially the quality. We're positive we'll achieve our yield estimates for the season. Namibia is very likely to produce a larger crop than last year."
"But," Tonie continues, "the quality is more important to us than the volumes. When you focus on premium customers, you have to deliver a premium product and service levels, and that’s the foundation of our whole business.”