South African drought not affecting grape production yet

Talk of drought in South African may be bad news for citrus and avocado growers, however the warm and dry weather has thus far been generally advantageous for grape growers in the early areas.

Afrifresh owns grape and citrus plantations in Limpopo, the Northern Cape as well as Western Cape which they export internationally. Charl du Bois from Afrifresh says that the dry and warm conditions have been good for the development of higher sugar levels, especially in the Limpopo Province. However, he is concerned about the long-term effect on vineyards if there is a continued absence of summer rain in the North. The Orange River area has enough water to see them through this season, but the drought may still impact on the harvest of growers in later areas such as the Olifants River and Berg River.

South Africa is expecting 62 million cartons for export this season when compared to the 59 million exported last year, which is attributed to new plantings coming into production as well as exceptionally good growing conditions to date. Du Bois warns that there is however still a risk of rain and hail which could adjust the crop estimate downwards. At the present moment the timing for the current season is on par with that of last year and the quality of the crop is expected to be excellent.

Afrifresh own 18 farming units in South Africa, of which their 9 grape farms are expected to export 1.8 million cartons this year. Their focus will again be on packing for their retail customers in Europe as well as the UK, although du Bois anticipates that relatively smaller markets such as Asia and the Middle East will become more important this year given the bigger volumes. Phytosanitary regulations act as a barrier to entry to the USA and thus only small volumes are exported to this region from South Africa.

Du Bois explains that Afrifresh volumes have increased in the Orange River region due to new plantings on their Berekisanang empowerment farm coming into production. Amongst these are varieties such as Melody, Alison, Chrissy and Magenta from SNFL which are a recent addition to the South African offer.

"In total 40% of our vineyards are not yet in production and we therefore expect volumes from our own farms to increase significantly in the coming years, explained Du Bois. “

For more information:
Charl du Bois
Afrifresh Group
Tel: +27(0)21-763 7600

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