Grape volumes on the South African market are very high because producers don’t want to take chances with the shelf life of their grapes and instead of exporting, keep more of their grapes at home at the moment.

Grapes are moving very slowly through the stores at the moment to ensure that quality is on standard after recent heavy rain and hail in places.

“It’s very difficult to quantify the extent of the damage and what the impact of the hail and the rain has been,” says a grape trader, “but we do see that there are more discards in the packhouse.”

Starlight grapes 

Very good Spanish grape import season
Sometimes producers harvest their first grapes too early to take advantage of high prices, which naturally affects eating quality. That is why certain retailers still offer the last of the Spanish grapes, even if these are double the price of the new season domestic grapes.

They’ve had a very good import season on Spanish grapes, a retail buyer says, and the quality has been very good, even with the container delays owing to the port strike.

Better eating quality on earliest local grapes
However, this year producers have been waiting longer before harvesting the earliest grapes, FreshPlaza is told.

Right: Early Sweet grapes

“The sugars don’t measure that very much higher, but the eating quality is definitely much better,” remarks an exporter.

On the municipal market, an agent who specializes in grapes agrees that the earliest grapes have been sweeter than other years.

Grape volumes are ample, he says, although demand is weak as it often is during mid-month.

Sluggish sales, says grape trader
Prices started off high, as it always does at the start of the grape season. Currently it lies between R100 (5.6 euro) and R150 (8.4 euro) for a carton with ten 500g punnets, he says. (The 4,5kg cartons come in later in the season.)

“Every year we start with a bang but it feels like sales are more sluggish than other years this time,” he says. He remarks that he has not heard of hail damage or quality problems among his producers.

AMT Trends reports that grape volumes increased by 74% over the past week, with a concomitant decrease of over 40% in prices. The average price for a kilogram of grapes is now R37,73 (just over 2 euros).