According to a recent Agricultural Bank of Namibia report, good rain received early in 2020 resulted in an expected bumper harvest for Namibia’s grape sector. In fact, projections are that Namibia will export some 7.4 million cartons of world-class grapes this year, a significant increase from the 6.1 million cartons exported in 2019.
A 2020/21 season forecast by the Namibian Grape Growers Association (NGGA) shows the crop estimate for export table grapes at 7.4 million 4.5kg equivalent cartons from week 43 to week 2.
“The vineyards are looking good; it’s been a very promising start to the season. We’re expecting an above average crop,” said NGGA vice chairman Kobus Bothma.
He explained that a cooler than normal period in September this year, during which nights went down to approximately 10°C, delayed the early development from flowering to fruit set, and this will probably cause a delay of about five to seven days to the start of the Namibian table grape season.
Bothma added that the relative cooler conditions were favourable for berry and bunch development, resulting in good berry sizes and nicely stretched bunches. He added that early signs from the lucrative export markets are promising.
Despite a global economic downturn, Namibian fresh grapes exports for 2019 continued to increase, recording close to N$840 million and over 33 million kg in net-weight shipped out. This was more than double the revenue generated by fresh grapes exported in 2015, which produced around N$407 million in sales.
Namibia Statistics Agency figures indicate that while grape exports declined to around 24 million kg in 2016, this picked up significantly in 2017 and 2018, recording around 27 million and 30 million kg, respectively. Major destinations for Namibia’s fresh grapes last year included The Netherlands (over 10 million kg), the United Kingdom (over 8 million kg), Germany (over 4 million kg), as well as South Africa and Belgium (over 2 million kg each).
Aussenkehr in southern Namibia has been described as a miracle in the desert, as its climate is perfect for growing table grapes. The area, well-known with the global grape industry for the fact that grapes can be harvested three to five weeks earlier than anywhere else in the world – elsewhere on the globe. During the harvesting season, a multitude of seasonal workers are employed.
However, despite securing profitable export markets and creating a number of jobs, most grape farm workers still bemoan unfavourable living conditions with many of them still living in makeshift reed structures. Grape farm workers also earn a meagre basic wage that does not include any benefits such as medical aid.