SOUTH AFRICA – Western Cape fruit and wine exports are on the rise, with the provincial government pushing for increased market access for the region’s high-quality produce.

The agri-processing sector is a key focus area for the provincial government for the next three to five years. And a key part of the Western Cape sector’s plans for growth is the promotion its brand as high-quality.

According to figures released by the provincial government on Thursday, the value of wine exports increased 78% between 2009 and last year.

In the past five years, domestic sales for natural wine reached 1.9-billion litres. According to wine producers’ body VinPro, at the end of 2014, the volume of local wine sales was at the highest level in 20 years. The 353-million litres of natural wine sales represented a 7.3% increase from 2013.

There has also been a steady growth in the Chinese market, with increases of 63% and 22% in packaged and bulk exports last year.

SA’s nearly 100,000ha of vineyards, most of which are located in the Western Cape, generate about 3% of the world’s wine production, putting the country among the top 10 largest producers.

The drive to export more wine got a shot in the arm after the Southern African Development Community recently concluded an economic partnership agreement with the European Union (EU) that will lead to improved market access for some agricultural products — including wine.

From next year, SA’s duty-free quota of wines exported to the EU will more than double from 48-million litres to 110-million litres. The EU is SA’s biggest wine export market and accounted for about 72% of exports last year.

Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said on Thursday that the Western Cape government had a goal to significantly increase the value add of all exports.

Mr Winde said the harvest season was in full swing, with 75% of wine grapes already harvested. The grape harvesting season usually stretches from November to the end of April.

Mr 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.”

VinPro MD Rico Basson said on Thursday that the high quality of this year’s harvest strengthened the wine industry’s drive to promote premium packaged wines.

He said the organisation was excited about the good growth in local wine sales.

“Some of the factors that contributed to this, include a strong focus on wine tourism in the Western Cape, marketing alignment in the past few years, as well as a growing middle class trading up to branded goods,” Mr Basson said.

He said the export market remains tough, with EU countries being SA’s main export market.

“The recessionary slump still has an effect on sales in these countries, however we are seeing good things happening, especially in the UK and Germany.”

March 20, 2015;