The South African Table Grape industry has just released its third crop estimate for the season, now that it has become clear that good harvesting conditions plus outstanding quality, colour and sizing have amply compensated for the losses due to rain in the Orange River.
A number of grape producing areas are on track to reach record volumes: the Northern Province's top-end estimate of 7,8 million 4.5kg cartons would be their best yet, while the Berg River's best-ever crop of last year could be improved upon this year if they reach the top estimate of 16,7 million cartons.
Likewise, the Crimson harvest is looking exceptional in the Hex River Valley, industry sources say, leading to a lift of a million cartons for a top estimate of 23 million 4.5kg cartons, which would be the most grapes ever produced in South Africa's seminal grape production region.
The Olifants River Valley is, perhaps, experiencing the best season of all, having been painfully affected by the recent drought. Some vineyards in this area were cut off at ground level in 2017 and 2018 as a drastic drought measure.
This year the industry is talking about the outstanding quality and colour on grapes from the Olifants River Valley and they, too, could pack the most grapes ever if they reach their top estimate of four million cartons.
Rain did less damage than initially feared
The damage to grapes in the Orange River wasn't as bad as initially feared and the latest estimate is between 500,000 and a million cartons below the first estimate.
"Due to the two weeks' delay to the start of the season [in the Orange River] the effect of the rain at the beginning of the year had less of an impact on the later cultivars than initially estimated," a SATI press release notes. "Producers also took great care in harvesting and sorting grapes during packing, which contributed to the eventual good volumes."
Packing has come to an end in the early Northern and Orange River regions.
In the Northern Provinces a substantial amount of rain has abbreviated the tail-end of the season and placed a question mark over the shelf life of some varieties. There could be a larger percentage of grapes inspected for export but instead sent to the local market.