Grape farmers count losses from drought

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Table grape farmers in the Olifantsriver Vallei in the Western Cape, have suffered losses of over R 100 million as a result of the drought.

While the rest of country’s producers saw fair to good crops, the excessive heat in the West Coast region affected the quality of the grapes, especially for the export market.

Export grapes which did not meet international standards resulted in a loss of more than R 10 million.

Nico Greeff runs a family owned farm in Vredendal which produces table grapes for the export market, but in October last year, a single day’s sweltering heat of 48 degrees celcius had a serious knock-on effect.

Twenty percent of his export grapes were lost.

While Greeff could still ship good quality grapes, but English buyers complained and deducted money for what they deemed as faults in the fruit.

Greeff says it has been the worst season in the Olifants River Valley in decades.

The harvest season is over and the wait for rain has begun.

“We had to cut out about 20% of the smaller berries, so we then had a 20% loss in production to comply with the berry size they needed overseas.”

We are worried because the price of the wines that we are selling is not good enough
He adds, “ We hope this season will be better. The farmers are always positive and next year is always a better year, but there can be implications because, We didn’t have enough water to irrigate properly right to the end.”

Wine production in the area, the largest in the country, also suffered losses of around R 45 million and every year fewer farmers opt to continue with wine yards.

The Chairperson of the Klawer Wine Cellar, Frikkie Adriaanse says, “ We are worried because the price of the wines that we are selling is not good enough.”

“ For example production costs is about R 45 000 per hectare and you get about 20 to 25 tonnes per hectare income at the price of R1200. You can make your own sums, it doesn’t work out to the benefit of the farmer. You do the farming at a loss and that’s the main concern. We are not in a position to increase the price.”

However, Adriaanse says the wine which is currently in production could be of exceptional quality as the heat resulted in a smaller but more flavour rich grape.