Western Cape fruit and wine exports are on the rise as the government drives increased market access for the province’s high-quality produce.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, provided an update on the 2014/15 harvest season for the fruit and wine industries. Minister Winde outlined the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s action plan to support these industries.

Speaking at De Grendel wine estate, Winde said the harvest season was in full swing, with 75% of wine grapes already harvested.

“The total tonnage will be in the cellar at the end of this month. The harvest started slightly earlier this year, partly due to a warmer August. This is one of the reasons it will likely be a lighter tonnage this year. We continue, however, to see strong growth in both domestic sales and exports.”

Key trends in domestic wine sales and exports:

  • The value of exports increased by 78% between 2009 and 2014
  • In the past five years, domestic sales for natural wine reached 1.9 billion litres
  • Steady growth in the Chinese market, with a 63% increase in packaged exports in 2014 and a 22% increase in bulk exports

Winde said the fruit industry saw increases in the volumes of several crops.

“This year the South African export estimate for apples is approximately 33 million equivalent cartons, which is a 25% increase from the previous season. This is especially significant for our region. In 2014, 82% of all South Africa’s apple exports came from the Western Cape.”

Key trends in fruit industry:

  • This year stone fruit volumes have increased significantly. The season is categorized by good quality fruit with high sugar content and good colour;
  • Nationally, nectarine exports are expected to increase by 31% this season, peach exports by 23% and plum exports by 9% compared to last season;
  • The Western Cape makes up the bulk of SA’s total fruit exports in these categories. In 2014, the province produced 93% of nectarine exports, 78% of peach and 96% of plum exports

Winde said the quality of the Western Cape’s produce gave us a clear competitive edge.

“Winemakers are lauding the quality of this year’s harvest as career bests. VinPro’s viticulturists and winemakers have highlighted the exceptional colour and flavour in both white and red wines. Western Cape wines consistently garner international recognition. This week, Groot Constantia’s 2013 Chardonnay was named as the best in the world at the 22nd annual Chardonnay du Monde competition. Recently, leading wines and beers journal, Drinks International, selected three of the province’s wine farms as among the best in the world.”

“While the stone fruit industry is competing against the large Chilean crop on the global market, Hortgro reports that our fruit is preferred over Chilean exports because of the high quality and taste.”

As part of the Project Khulisa, a provincial growth project, the agri-processing sector has been selected a focus area for the Western Cape Government for the next three to five years. A key part of this sector’s plans for growth is the promotion of the province’s brand as high-quality.

“The quality of our produce is getting stronger every year. We are now an international competitor. In wines, we have transformed from being a quantity to a quality industry.”