The South African Table Grape Industry’s (SATI) first crop estimate for the 2020/2021 season is signalling a return to normal production volumes, following mostly climate-related challenges in recent years.

This crop estimate suggested that the industry would harvest between 65 million and 69,8 million cartons of 4,5kg equivalent each in the coming season.

SATI’s historical data showed that actual packed table grapes volumes were 66,15 million cartons in the 2019/2020 season; 61,13 million cartons in 2018/2019; and 62,06 million cartons in 2017/2018.

In a statement issued by SATI, the organisation’s CEO, Willem Bestbier, said that mostly due to a cooler start to spring, harvesting of the 2020/2021 table grape crop would likely kick off approximately a week later than normal in the northern and Orange River production regions.

“The basis of the crop estimate is supported by the latest vine census, which reflects the South African table grape industry’s response to market preferences through the investment in new varieties that gave rise to the accelerated replacement of older generation varieties with new generation varieties. A larger percentage of young vines across most of the production regions is currently not bearing, or not in full production yet,” he said.

SATI’s 2020 national vine census showed that there had been a year-on-year decline in the number of vines of historically popular table grape varieties such as Crimson Seedless (-4%), Prime (-7%), Thompson Seedless (-25%) and Sugranineteen [Scarlotta Seedless] (-4%).

However, there had been significant year-on-year increases in the total number of vines of other varieties such as IFG 68-175 [Sweet Celebration] (+35%), Sugrathirtyfive [Autumncrisp] (+20%), IFG Ten [Sweetglobe] (+34%) and Starlight (+14%).

SATI spokesperson, Clayton Swart, told Farmer’s Weekly that export destinations and volumes for South Africa’s 2020/2021 table grape crop were expected to follow similar trends to those of recent years.

Data from SATI showed that the top five largest consumer markets of South Africa’s 2019/2020 table grapes production were the EU (31,4 million cartons), the UK (15,8 million cartons), Canada (4,2 million cartons), China and Hong Kong (3 million cartons), and the Middle East (2,9 million cartons).