Growing focus on red grapes in Namibia

At Capespan Namibia, berry sizes are between 2mm on late cultivars and 14 mm on the first Flame and Early Sweet to be packed in just over four weeks.

Grape volumes from the Aussenkehr Valley are on an upward trend. Last year 6.2 million 4.5 kg equivalent cartons were packed in the region, expected to reach 7.5 million this year. This is a result of new plantings (approximately 2,500 hectares under grapes) and new high-yield cultivars.

The first grapes from Capespan Namibia are destined for the EU and the UK, coming on the market around the same time as those from South Africa’s Limpopo Province, and around 10 days ahead of the Northern Cape. “With South African volumes looking to be on the up this season, it seems like there will be a fair amount of grapes available at the start of the season. The exchange rate is currently in our favour and so prices should start at a better level than last year,” says Kobus Bothma of Capespan Namibia.

“The grapes look very promising, although a lot can still happen before the harvest starts. Right now we’re very busy, removing leaves, shortening bunches and doing enlargement sprays. At one stage it looked like we might be ahead of last year, but now we appear to set to start packing Flame and Early Sweet from weeks 45 to 47, followed by Ivory, Arra13 and Sweet Celebration. We try to pack around 50% of our volumes for the Christmas market and we normally end packing by week 1.”

“The valley used to have mostly white grapes but red grapes are becoming more of a focus. In our valley the grapes colour well because our nights are cool, especially with the newer cultivars that colour better. Growers around here have planted Sweet Celebration, Jack’s Salute, as well as Arra13, Arra29, Tawny, Timco and of course Flame.”

Some Aussenkehr growers already start in week 44 with Prime, but Capespan Namibia prefers Early Sweet from week 45 as their early white variety as it needs less labour to remove undersized berries from bunches.

Berry size and colour will be evaluated in three weeks’ time in order to make decisions for markets in South East Asia.

China market access negotiations well advanced
Namibian grapes don’t yet have access to China, but there are high hopes for the 2019/2020 season. “Negotiations between the two governments are very well advanced, so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to send to China next season. It’s a massive market, and the Namibian Grape Growers’ Association has been in close cooperation with the government to finalise all of the protocols to open the market,” he says.

Shipping from Namibia
This season Aussenkehr growers, representing several grape companies, will aim to get around 100 containers together for a shipment from Namibia’s Lüderitz harbour. “It’s more expensive for us to ship grapes from Namibia than from Cape Town Harbour. Lüderitz isn’t deep enough for large vessels and our straightest route to Lüderitz is 400km, but the road isn’t tarred, so we have to go via Keetmanshoop which makes it an 800 km-journey, comparable to the distance to South Africa.”

“However,” he continues, “every season we send some grapes from Lüderitz, just to keep the channel open and keep momentum going. It’s on the Namibian government’s agenda to tar the road between Aussenkehr and Lüderitz and to improve the harbour facilities within two to five years. We would like to ship more of our grapes from there. The income from table grapes is a massive injection into Namibia’s economy.”

Author: Carolize Jansen




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