The hot and dry 2015/2016 South African table grape season has come to an end with most producers indicating that it was one of the most challenging seasons they have faced in many years. Amongst the many challenges faced during this season was the drought that hit four of the five table grape producing regions as well as vessel delays due to strong winds in the Cape Town harbour.
However, this being said, the industry experienced a better return due to the shortage of supply in the markets that supported prices and lead to better farm gate earnings for the producer. This couldn’t have come at a better time for producers given the rising input costs and many other demands and challenges, for example the replacement of old vineyards and/or old generation varieties. At the end of April 2016 the final intake up to week 19 was 57.95 million 4,5kg equivalent cartons of which 56.63 million were exported.
During the initial crop estimate done in October 2015, the industry foresaw a big crop in the making. Vineyards were healthy and very promising, although less rainfall during the winter months was a concern. SATI’s initial crop estimate of between 61.3 and 63.2 million 4.5 kg equivalent cartons would have been the biggest crop on record, but early seasonal realities soon proved that it would not realise. Due to the hot and dry weather conditions a gradual reduction in the initial crop estimate became evident.
The Olifants River Region experienced even harsher conditions as a 40% water quota was imposed on farmers in that region. The hot and dry weather conditions also lead to some sunburn damage in the vineyards. Weather conditions in the Orange River Region were good and bunch development looked normal right up to the start of harvest. However, when packing commenced, berry sizes proved to be smaller, which resulted in lower bunch weights and lower pack-outs.
The Northern Provinces experienced a better than usual start to the season as the usual summer hail storms stayed away and berry and bunch development was close to normal. The Berg River Region faced the same problems as the other regions as bunch weights also disappointed. Vineyards in the region also suffered as a result of the heat and lack of rain. The Hex River Valley Region experienced the same fate as the other areas in the Western Cape, which encountered the worst drought in 75 years according to Agri-SA. The initial estimate was therefore adjusted sooner to accommodate the effect of the heat, the drought and the resulting reduction in berry sizes and bunch weights.
SATI Technical Bulletin