Shortage of red seedless grape expected

It has been a taxing season for South Africa’s table grape industry due to early winter rains that have made it difficult for seasoned growers in the Hex River region to stay on schedule

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While Mzansi’s table grape industry battles to stay on schedule following early winter rains, it is now also facing logistical constrains at the Cape Town harbour.

Four of the country’s table grape producing regions have concluded harvesting. However, the seasoned growers in the Hex River Valley are still left with large volumes to pack.

Jacques Ferreira, information and systems manager at the South African Table Grape Industry. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

This Western Cape region is known as the traditional home of South African table grapes with its economy almost entirely based on production for the export market.

According to Jacques Ferreira, information and systems manager at the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), table grape packing in the region is, however, drawing to a close.

“It is estimated that up to another 4,5 million cartons (4,5kg equivalent) might be packed in the Hex River Valley. The table grape season is slowly coming to an end with 18,5 million cartons in the Hex River and over 18 million cartons already inspected for export in the Berg River Valley,” he says.

Markets are being warned that there may see a shortage of red seedless grapes.

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Rain in recent weeks fell on mostly Crimson red grapes that were harvest-ready. The most widely planted cultivar in the Hex River suffered damages due to the rain.

Loading tempo slowed down

Meanwhile logistical constrains at the Cape Town harbour continues.

Ferreira explains, “On top of the already reported constraints, such as the shortage of containers and reefer stacks packed to capacity, external elements such as strong winds kept the harbour wind-bound for 75 hours in the previous week.”

This, he says, forced some pack-houses in the Hex River Valley to accept a quota-system to pack less pallets a day than usual and also caused a congestion of trucks outside the harbour.

Over 59 million cartons WERE already shipped, with around 8 million cartons waiting to be distributed.

While the intake restrictions brought some breathing space in the logistics chain, reports indicate cooling facilities are under immense pressure.

The Hexkoel facility in De Doorns is expected to only take a thousand pallets. However, grapes will most likely be moved to cold stores outside the Hex River Valley.

Bumper grape crops

Meanwhile SATI confirms that the Northern region has exported 7.8 million 4.5kg cartons while Olifants River grape growers are ending their grape season on a high exceeding estimate with 4.3 million cartons.

The Orange River’s export crop of 18.3 million 4.5kg cartons was better than expected after rain during the harvest, a week into the new year. Berg River region entered the last few weeks of packing with intake volumes well over 18 million cartons.

So far, over 59 million cartons have been shipped, with around eight million cartons still waiting to be distributed.

ALSO READ: SATI hopeful despite amended table grape crop forecast

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