As the harvesting and drying of grapes is underway, South Africa is forecasting a crop of 78 000 tonnes of marketable grapes for the 2021/22 production season, of which a remarkable 90% is grown in the Northern Cape province .
The total economic output is estimated at R2 billion annually, which earns foreign currency for the national economy as 90% of all produce is exported.
Northern Cape MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, rural development and land reform, Mase Manopole, recently embarked on an oversight excursion to assess the provincial government funded vineyard projects which are mainly found on the Orange River banks.
Various projects received a total of more than R500 million in government support over the years.
“My oversight visit to some of these projects, which are mainly using the Orange river as a source of water, was to go and ascertain if the money that the government has invested has been put to good use,” Manopole said.
“We need to embark on a vigorous and intensified programme of skills development, so that when the time comes for government to exit the projects, as a strategic investor we leave behind well-oiled machinery that will take the projects to greater heights,” she said.
Manopole highlighted some of the projects which have shown significant growth over the years.
“For example, the department, in partnership with Raisins South Africa, launched a 200-hectare raisin development in Eksteenskuil in 2013-2014. This has seen significant volume growth off previous production levels of 800 tonnes to levels now exceeding 2000 tonnes,” she said.
In monetary terms, the same community now annually earns an estimated R45m, compared to R15m in 2013-2014. Similar BEE initiatives have also seen the growth of black participants in the industry.
Market access development
Meanwhile the CEO of Raisins South Africa, Ferdie Botha, said the raisin industry has doubled over the past eight years, thanks to the Orange River Valley vineyards belt’s contribution.
“With various private and public sector developments, volumes have grown from approximately 40 000 tonnes in 2011/12 to 85 000 in 2019/20 and is expected to reach levels of 100 000 tonnes as early as 2023/24. This is mainly attributed to improved profitability levels, driven by improved production levels,“ he said.
He said market access and development are key strategic priorities for the raisin industry to ensure markets are also grown as production expands in time.
Currently Raisins SA is running five market development campaigns, in Germany, France and South Africa and two in the UK. There is a strong global drive for improved, healthier lifestyles, with Covid-19 further strengthening such drive. This global consumption trend provides an opportunity to grow global raisin consumption over the next decade.
Raisins are a healthy snack option and a versatile product that can be used in a wide variety of food products, he said.
High flow levels of river
The Orange River has experienced high flows since January 2022 with above average rainfall experienced upstream in both the Vaal and Orange catchment regions.
The recent high flow levels have negatively impacted 2% to 3% of the total hectares, with water levels that have decreased since January 2022.
Botha says these losses were significant for the individuals affected, but for the larger industry the impact is not severe. Eksteenskuil in particular has suffered some losses.
“The crop has developed well until now, with minor damages suffered at the start of spring when some frost and hail occurred. At the present moment we’ve not yet seen the necessity to decrease the crop forecast. There is still a long harvest and drying period that is ahead of us, as final product delivery to processors usually concludes towards the end of April,” Botha said.
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