SF du Toit – Growers by Nature

Southern African grape season could be back to normal timing

Two years ago, Hex River Valley grape grower-exporter Denau decided to extend their marketing platform independently, and SF du Toit (right) was brought in from previous roles in the grape industry to head up the Growers By Nature Paarl office.

“It’s a privilege to have the Naudé family as our founders. The Denau brand, which is our premium brand, has over the years built up much loyalty in Europe, the UK and the Far East,” SF says. “To remain more relevant in the global grape market, one has to offer a longer window of supply, giving receivers what they want and in the week that they want it.”

Denau is a multi-generational family business and grape and soft citrus specialists , grown in the Hex River Valley. “The Hex might not be that well known for soft citrus, but in fact conditions are very suitable with the area producing great eating quality fruit.”

Complete control over cold chain
Denau has always marketed its own grapes, which are harvested at the end of the South African grape campaign and its relationships with other growers go back decades; now Growers By Nature offers white, red and black grapes from the very start of the season (Namibia and then the Orange River) through to the very end, taking in Trawal and the Berg River along the way.

“One of our competitive advantages is that at Denau we cool our own fruit, which gives us more control over the cold chain,” he explains. “Most of our producers in the north and in the Western Cape also cool their grapes themselves.”

At the moment, it appears as if the upcoming grape season could be earlier than last season, which is more in line with normal timing,

“An early season would be good news, because it gives us extra sales time at the start of the grape season and more time to get into the market before Christmas,” he says, pointing out that fortuitously both Christmas and New Year fall on weekends, hence there are longer sales weeks over the festive season.

Soft citrus performs well in the Hex River Valley

“Retail shelf space in the UK, EU and the USA are important for us,” he notes, “with good options in the Far East and China, on both citrus and grapes.”

He believes the USA is a market with potential for growth in South African grapes, given the amount of grapes going there versus the sheer size of the market. Through their Summer Citrus exports to the USA, they have gathered expertise on the steri protocol to that market which stands them in good stead with their grape exports.

Meerlust grape trials
On the historic Meerlust farm in De Doorns the group has a trial block that includes many cultivars from all of the breeding programmes.

“We’re at the forefront of the testing and sampling of new cultivars of grapes. Preferred cultivars, superior quality and timing on demand – you want to manage those three aspects as best you can.”

Tasting of grape varieties trialled by Denau (photos supplied by Growers By Nature)

An early white cultivar has long been elusive in the Hex River; previous variety options struggled to gain traction, SF says, while Sweet Globe and Autumn Crisp only start coming in by week 4/5.

“If you say early white, you’re talking from week 1/2. We’ve now planted Timpson which is followed by Sweet Globe and Autumn Crisp. We are excited by the first commercial production that will be harvested this season.”

He observes: “The other current concern for us is that the US Dollar is so strong: our logistics costs we mainly pay in Dollar, but 75% of South Africa's grapes are shipped to Euro and Pound markets. I’m also worried about the Pound continuing to be under pressure and further weakening against the Dollar and the Euro.”

For more information:
SF du Toit
Growers By Nature
Tel: +27 21 210012598
Email: sf@gbnsa.com

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