Last week, an article was published about IFG’s cherry breeding activities on the African continent. Around the same time the company brought cherries to South Africa, it also planted the first table grapes and has continued to expand its selection of varieties since then. “We started planting table grapes in South Africa in 2011, Namibia in 2012, followed by Egypt in 2017,” says De Witt Kamfer, IFG’s Technical Manager for Africa & Middle East.
Although breeding is done exclusively at the company’s Research & Development facility in California, evaluation of the developed grapes is done in the different African countries. “We focus on evaluating our varieties in different microclimates in each country,” commented Kamfer. “With its wealth of climate zones, South Africa has several different table grape production areas. However, not all varieties will be successful in all areas.”
Sherif El Beltagy from Belco and De Witt Kamfer with the first IFG vines planted in Egypt in 2017.
Currently, IFG is established in licensing in South Africa, Namibia, and Egypt. “Soon, we will expand into Morocco. Several advanced selections of raisins will be fruiting this season, and we are excited to see the results,” said Kamfer. The company is looking forward to continued expansion in the table grape producing areas of Africa as the African continent offers opportunities to harvest table grapes for eight months of the year. South Africa has a production window from November through March and Namibia harvests between November and January. Egypt’s season typically starts in May and runs until July, playing a critical role in the transition from southern to northern hemisphere production. “It is strategically important to make sure IFG varieties are available to consumers in the United Kingdom and Europe.”
Left: Kamfer's kids enjoying grapes. Right: Sweet Celebration grapes.
Popularity of newer varieties
Sweet Celebration™ and Sweet Globe™ table grapes have been the most popular varieties to grow on the African continent. IFG’s Sugar Crisp™ grapes are currently doing well, and Cotton Candy™ grape production continues to grow at a steady pace. Southern African consumers have shown a keen interest in table grape varieties like Sweet Globe™ and Sweet Celebration™, which have large juicy berries and a crunchy texture. Developing new varieties and growing consumption is truly a collaboration between the breeder, retailer, and licensee. Retailers are becoming more specific in the varieties that they carry on their shelves. “We are seeing a strong consolidation in the varieties they demand. This approach will deliver on giving the consumer a consistent eating experience,” said Kamfer. “In other African countries a lot of Red Globe are being sold. We believe that the demand for Sweet Celebration™ grapes will also increase in these countries as the variety stores very well.”
“We are very grateful for licensees that go the extra mile to make sure we harvest grape varieties at optimum brix levels. They go out of their way to ensure an excellent eating experience for grape consumers worldwide,” said Kamfer.