Opinion

South African Table Grape Industry Wrap Up 2022 Harvest

Fresh Grape
South Africa
Published Jun 4, 2022
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The South African 2021/22 table grape harvest season has officially drawn to a close, and all production regions have completed picking and packing. Total harvest volume reached 349.35mmt in 2021/22 representing a 3.6% YoY increase. Total export volume reached 311.29mmt in W1 May of the 2021/22 season, a 3.1% YoY decrease. The EU and UK remain the largest export destinations accounting for 74.18% of the market share in 2021/22. The most notable export trend is a YoY decrease of 30.01% in export volume to Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.

The South Africa Table Grape Industry Association (SATI) released preliminary post-harvest statistics as the 2021/22 table grape harvest season has finished, which indicate that total harvest volume reached 349.35mmt (million metric tons) in 2021/22, representing an increase of 3.6% compared to the 2020/21 season. The increase in harvest volume is the result of larger harvests in the Orange River and Hex River, the two largest growing regions, with a 20.57% and 5.00% YoY increase in production respectively. All other growing regions experienced a decrease in production volume. 

Figure 1: South African Table Grape Production by Region 2019-2022

Source: South African Table Grape Industry (SATI)

The total export volume reached 311.29mmt as of W1 May of the 2021/22 season, a 3.1% decrease compared to the same week last year. The higher production volume combined with lower exports resulted in a 141.49% increase in table grapes destined for the South African domestic market, increasing from 15.76mmt in 2020/21 to 38.06mmt in the 2021/22 season. The EU and UK remain the largest export destinations accounting for a combined 74.18% of total exports in 2021/22, albeit at a slightly lower volume compared to 2020/21. Exports to North America reached 23.68mmt with export to Canada increasing by 12.36% while export volumes to the US decreased by 24.17%. The US primarily sources its table grapes from Chile and Peru, both of which achieved large harvests, explaining the decreased demand for South African table grapes.

Table 1: South African Table Grape Exports by Market 2019-2022

Source: SATI

The most notable change is a YoY decrease of 30.01% in export volume to Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine. Exports into Africa indicated the largest growth with an increase of 51.17% YoY. Africa serves as a significant future export opportunity for South African table grapes especially considering the high sea freight rates which could be avoided by exporting to Southern African countries and the favourable trade agreements in place through SADC and SACU. It appears that industry initiatives to diversify global market access are paying dividends as indicated by an increase in exports to the Middle East of 16.95%. Exports to China and Hong Kong (Far East) decreased by 11.43% most likely due to the enforcement of China’s strict zero-COVID border control policies and the fresh outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-February 2022.

SATI has expressed concern regarding the financial state and sustainability of the South African table grape industry due to the various challenges faced during the 2021/22 season. Many challenges stem from domestic sources. The table grape industry requires world-class infrastructure including dependable electricity supply, functioning and effective ports, and good road infrastructure. South Africa is experiencing deficiencies in all these areas threatening the long-term sustainability of the table grape industry and its competitiveness in global markets. Global market factors are also influencing the South African table grape industry. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is exacerbating an already inflationary environment, leading to skyrocketing input prices, especially in terms of fertilisers, pesticides, and fuel. Also, China’s enforcement of its strict zero-COVID border control policies has led to intermittent port closures and longer shipping times which is not conducive to the perishable nature of table grape exports. 

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