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Can backlog at port be worked away before citrus starts?

Yet more rain could spell quickened end to South African grapes

In the Hex River Valley grape growers are warily watching threatening skies, again, as yet more rain is predicted for the Western Cape.

“If it rains now it’ll cause big problems and the season will pretty much be at its end,” says an exporter. They have several hundred thousand of mostly Crimson (and a bit of Autumn Royal) still to be packed; traditionally South African grapes would arrive in export markets up until week 21 or 22.

A few weeks ago the Western Cape’s packing was halted for a week as a result of the delays at the harbour caused by wind (among other things – some in the freight industry maintain that the port is only 50% responsible for delays; the other half of the blame lies with inefficiencies among freight forwarders and container depots that result in truck drivers sent hither and thither).

The flow through coldstores is better, the exporter adds, but the backlog in the harbour is “terrible “.

“At the moment we are getting space and we’re getting containers and we can get them into the stacks. There’ve been changes to vessel schedules to try and catch up but I don’t think they’ll be able to sort out the backlog before the citrus season,” he comments.

“Could’ve been a great end to grapes”
Rain at various times this grape season has resulted in quality problems and for that reason, grapes have been moving slowly through the packhouse as bunches are carefully worked over.

Export programmes in simple packaging are favoured in case of a rejection when grapes need to be repacked for the local market.

“An early end to the South African table grape season is bad: it’s bad for clients, it’s bad for us, but for those who can make it, prices will be good,” observes a grape exporter. There is little Chilean product in Europe which doesn’t buy much from Brazil.

“The overseas market will definitely be in short supply which actually presents a very good opportunity for late South African grapes, and a chance to obtain good prices. It could’ve been a great end to our season. It certainly felt like the quality and shelf life were better this year.”

The UK remains a stable grape market, while China was much better than last year, FreshPlaza was told, “but only if you send the right product”.

The East was fairly difficult this season, purchase power has diminished. In the Middle East prices are “not on standard”.

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