South African Raisins Report, January 2023
HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS REPORT
-The 2023 SA Raisin Crop is early
-Raisins from the Lower Orange River Basin, Northern Cape Province
-Olifantsrivier Region (Elephants River) Western Cape region
-General Market position as seen from South Africa
The 2023 SA Raisin Crop is early.
The South African 2023 raisins crop is going to be earlier than usual. Farmers are busy harvesting and making raisins early in January, which is roughly 3 weeks earlier than usual. The crop is estimated to be 77,000mt by Raisins SA.
Raisins from the Lower Orange River Basin, Northern Cape Province
The volume of raisins from the Orange River region represents roughly 86% of the raisin volume produced in South Africa. The natural elements are ideal for raisin production, including high temperature (42°C plus), low atmospheric humidity (20% humidity), and a plentiful supply of river water for irrigation. However, it is a summer rainfall region, so if there is rainfall (roughly 200ml per annum in a “normal” year) it will happen during the raisin harvesting period.
Now that harvesting has started, farmers are warning that the grapes volume is less than anticipated. According to the suppliers, the crop estimate could be 70,000mt or lower. That is a 10% drop in the crop size estimate for the region. What has caused the lower crop in the region?
1. The earlier ripening varieties of grapes, namely selma pete, Flame, Sugra 39 are not affected to the same degree as the merbein and sultana varieties (Both later ripening varieties). It is all about timing of the crop. The last two mentioned varieties make up roughly 75% of the crop. They are also the two varieties most favored to make golden sultanas.
2. 2022 saw exceptional rainfall that caused humid conditions and Downey mildew to grow uncontrolled over the vines. The downey mildew has damaged the growing buds of the vines for the fruit of the 2023 crop. The damage is more significant than first estimated. That means that the fruit growth per vine is less. This is mainly affecting the merbien and sultana varieties.
3. Late in September 2022, there was an exceptionally cold night which affected the grape variety merbein. At the moment of the cold snap, the merbein variety was at a vulnerable stage in its fruit development. The cold acted merbein vine plants like a frost and “burnt” the developing flower nodes.
On the positive side, the Redsun Technical team reports excellent quality of the grapes that are on the vines. Good development of the physiological properties of the grape resulting in good sugars and a good body. This is typical of a vine that has lower-volume fruit. The smaller volume enjoys better nourishment from the plant.
The heat we are experiencing and the lower volumes mean that the ripening process is happening faster than usual.
If the grape has too much sugar, ORs will not dry to an even light brown color. The color will be darker, caused by the caramelizing of the sugar.
The goldens need a grape that is not completely ripe. It needs to be hard and firm, but with sufficient sugar. This enables the grape to absorb the required sulphur fumes and to maintain the golden colour over a longer period of time (12 months and longer).
For Thompsons, the longer the product is on the vine, improves the sugar content, and therefore the quality of the raisin. Colour is not an issue.
Flame medium raisins are not adversely affected by the earlier ripening
Therefore, problems from the region,
1. Lower than expected volume, however, excellent quality provided the rain stays away,
2. Earlier than expected ripening, therefore danger if goldens and OR Sultanas are the target products.
3. Selma pete is producing good quality Thompsons, and the flame mediums are also producing well. However, goldens, OR Sultanas and SA Sultanas will not do well.
Olifantsrivier Region (Elephants River) Western Cape region
This region is responsible for 9,5% of South African raisin production (9000mt and growing). Nature has been kind to this region, and it has been unaffected by downey mildew, or heavy rains (winter rainfall area). Therefore, we have reports of good crops, and harvesting has also started.
The typical products are Thompson, currants, Flames, and black and Thompson jumbos. Goldens are not made due to the moist air that comes into the region at night from the Atlantic Ocean that is roughly 40km away. The are some experiments in golden production underway further inland from the coast at Vanrhynsdorp.
Therefore, 10,000mt of raisins in this area is definitely a strong possibility.