South Africa’s wine grape harvest expected to hit new low since 2005

SOUTH AFRICA – Wine grape producers and cellars in South Africa are expected to receive a lower wine grape harvest this year due to a prolonged drought that has continued to devastate the industry.

Vinpro, a South African wine industry body which represents about 3500 local wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders, stated that the 2019 wine grape crop was expected to be the smallest since 2005. 

According to the latest survey from the wine industry body SA Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis), with close to two thirds of the 2019 wine grape harvest already in cellars, the most recent estimate indicates that the harvest might at this stage be smaller than in 2018.   

A report by Business Report reveals that in 2018, wine grape harvest especially in Western Cape was affected most severely by a three-year drought resulting to a decline in the country’s total to 1 220 920 tonnes, 15% smaller than in 2017. 

“This trend can be attributed to unfavourable weather conditions during flowering and set in October and November, as well as above average winds experienced at the start of summer.

The berries and bunches are smaller, lighter and less dense than usual,” said Francois Viljoen, the manager of Vinpro’s viticulture consultation service. 

He said rainfall that occurred earlier in March in certain areas of the Western Cape necessitated greater inputs to control disease, while rot will also contribute to losses in certain wine grape areas and farms.

Additionally, he noted that many vineyards, especially dryland vineyards, had not yet fully recovered from the effect of the three-year drought, even as the drought continues to be experienced in some regions.

Christo Conradie, Vinpro wine cellar manager, said previously that production costs have risen by 7.4% annually over the last 10 years, and with wine prices remaining stagnant until recently, more than 80% of  SA wine producers are farming below a sustainable net farm income of US$2100/ha.

As a leading wine producer in Africa, the industry contributes R36bn to GDP and employs nearly 290,000 people and is one of South Africa’s largest agricultural exports

South Africa has nearly 100,000 hectares of vineyards, mostly in the Western Cape, accounting for 4% of world production, a report by Business Day reveals.

The official 2019 Wine Harvest Report will be issued on May 7, 2019. 

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