South Africa still on track for good raisin crop despite recent rains

New crop South African raisins being sun dried on the Jan Hanekom farm in the Upington area

06 Mar 2020 | Article published in IEG VU Agribusiness
By Julian Gale | @JulianFoodNews |
South Africa still on track for good raisin crop despite recent rains
South Africa remains on course for a decent-sized raisin crop despite anticipated losses in some areas due to rain in the last few weeks.

This was the view held by key producers and processors visited this week by UK distributors and trade journalists from the UK and Germany as part of a trade visit organised and hosted by Raisins South Africa (RSA) and its UK marketing and PR representative Red Communications.

Most of the visits were in the Upington area, which is in the upper Orange river in the Northern Cape Province.

Jan Hanekom, founder and owner of the eponymous company, recalled that in 2019 his company produced around 700 tonnes of raisins. He expects a slight dip in output this year to 500 tonnes after an estimated 80 mm of rainfall across his orchards since February 15. Hanekom added that a lot of the farm’s raisin varieties were harvested before the rainfall, the main exception being the Merbein Thompsons.

The Selma Pete variety is an early cultivar, meaning that it can be harvested earlier than other types. In addition, this variety is known for being more robust and therefore with greater resistance to any rain damage. Selma Pete was originally developed in California and earns its name from the fact that it was created in Selma County by a man with the first name of Pete. .

In early February, South Africa was anticipating a second consecutive record crop, forecast to reach 81,000 tonnes.

In a presentation to the group on Monday (March 2), Ferdie Botha, general manager of RSA, said there were definite losses from the recent rainfall and the RSA would be assessing the extent of these losses with a view to formulating a downward revision to its earlier forecast. .

A few millimetres of rain in Upington on Sunday (March 1), when IEG Vu arrived, was unlikely to have caused any further significant damage to raisins and sultanas still to be harvested.

Later on Monday morning, Peter Kuilman, director of processor Red Sun Raisins, told IEG Vu that he now expects the country’s raisin crop to be 6,000-10,000 tonnes down from the original target of 81,000 tonnes as a result of “rains falling at exactly the wrong time”. It should be borne in mind, though, that this would still be a good volume crop.

Over in the Kakamas area, in the lower Orange River and about 80 km from Upington, Gerrit Nel of Perde Eiland Farming, explained that his farming location was fortunate to have very minimal rainfall, estimated at only 12 mm compared with the 23 mm cited by many other South African growers. “The 12 mm of rains we had last Wednesday (February 26) was the most we had in a long time,” he said.

Nel added that he expects raisin production of 800 tonnes from his farm this year, which would be a reasonable amount.

This week’s trade visit featured a lot of interesting information on the South African raisin industry’s plans to boost sales to the UK and elsewhere. It was also noted that there is a sector-wide need to raise overall consumption of raisins from all origins.

Further coverage on these and other key facets of the trade visit will follow soon.