SOUTH AFRICA – The South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) has reported an 18% year-on-year increase in export volume, reaching a total of 75.8 million cartons for the season.

The grape season is set to conclude at the end of March, marking a two-week early closure compared to the previous year.

During week 8, inspectors processed 4.5 million cartons, primarily of Crimson Seedless, Autumncrisp, and Scarlotta Seedless grapes.

Despite facing localized weather challenges in the Hex River Region, which contributed to a 6% drop in volume to 22.4 million cartons, SATI notes an overall positive harvest with favorable weather conditions fostering excellent color development.

The Hex River Region expects to conclude packing within the next 2-3 weeks, concluding about two weeks earlier than the previous season.

Packing has already been completed in the Northern Provinces and Orange River Region, with the Olifants River Region also nearing completion.

However, delays and logistical issues at the Cape Town Port persist, leading exporters to divert 831,191 million cartons to Port Elizabeth in Week 08, constituting 12.3% of all exports to date.

Antoinette van Heerden, logistical affairs manager at FPEF, acknowledges the challenges and states, “Although not ideal due to the increased cost, it is likely that alternative ports will continue to be utilized.”

Market dynamics present a mixed picture. Leon De Kock, CEO at Grape Alliance, highlights positive trends in the European and UK markets, with favorable prices and efficient movement through the value chain.

However, he warns of increased pressure in the coming weeks as more volumes from other producing countries enter the market.

In the Middle East, competitive pricing attributed to India’s lower production costs poses a challenge, leading De Kock to predict a potential shift in market share favoring India over South Africa in future seasons.

Asia presents its own set of challenges, with De Kock emphasizing the need for superior product quality for the discerning Asian markets.

He notes the difficulties faced in the China market this year due to macro-economic factors and urges the industry not to compromise on quality, stating, “The Asian markets require a very high level of quality.”

In 2022, South Africa claimed the position of the world’s fourth-largest table grape exporter, trailing behind Chile, Peru, and Italy according to UN data.

The current season’s performance showcases resilience in the face of port challenges and evolving global market dynamics.

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