“We believe South African grapes still have that edge”

Christian Strydom, procurement and marketing manager at Pitto, jokes that he was looking for a jersey yesterday morning when Kakamas clocked 10°C – but he doesn’t own one.

Yesterday afternoon it was below 30°C, qualifying as a day on the cool side. Cool temperatures in the Northern Cape are relative but it’s been good for colour.

Pitto, a table grape grower-exporter with farms in the Orange River and the Olifants River regions, will be all systems go by next week. Their first containers of Early Sweet have been shipped, mostly to Europe, some to the Middle East and Canada.

Their Prime Seedless is what really pleases him. “Yesterday we started picking fruit from some of the blocks that we know are not our best blocks, and we had some Chinese buyers with us in the packhouse, and they said they would buy it, so we’re very excited for when we start picking Prime from our best blocks and packing these for them. They’re looking superb. I must say it’s some of the best grapes I’ve yet seen.”

Shelf space will be their future focus
“We’re a bit wary of America’s effect on the Canadian market. We can see that the grape market is under a fair bit of pressure, not just there but elsewhere, and that’s why we will focus on shelf space going forward. We won’t go to the open market much, which is our usual strategy, because selling on the open market is a very big risk. About 50% of the time you don’t get your asking price.”

“It’s everyone’s aim to have a client. It’s nice to know your fruit has a specific address.”

It’s generally agreed that the European market will be fuller than usual, he says. “We’re not expecting the outstanding early prices of some seasons this year, but similarly we’re not expecting a crash. We do know that other producing countries in South America are going to determine our prices as well and it is a cause of concern. However, we believe South African grapes still have that edge.”

Mid-season red varieties 5 – 8 days late
As for the lateness of the Orange River season, he notes that a week or two of cool weather just after flowering retarded the growth of specifically mid-season red varieties. Only Flame, Tawny and Ralli are expected to be late by five to eight days. It’s too early to say much about Crimson whose colouring hasn’t started yet.

Christian notes that cooler weather is expected in the Olifants River as well, which will benefit colouring of the Flame Seedless and Starlight. “The Midnight Beauty and Flame Seedless on our farm in Trawal is looking excellent this year,” he says.

For more information:
Christian Strydom
Tel: +27 54 431 0302
Email: export@pitto.co.za

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