Packing Bonheur (Black seeded grapes).
The biggest producers of table grapes are situated in the Northern Hemisphere. The country that produces the largest volumes of table grapes by far is China followed by India, Uzbekistan, Italy and the United States. In the Southern Hemisphere, the largest producers are Chile, Brazil, Australia and South Africa.
South African Production
Packers with Red Globe table grapes.
South Africa has been producing and exporting table grapes for more than a century. The industry produces grapes mainly for the export market and is continuing to expand rapidly from year-to-year. Grapes are produced in South Africa from mid-November to mid-April.
Victoria table grape vineyard, Hex River Valley.
There are five main production regions in South Africa. The grape harvest commences in the earliest region and then moves southward in a set order as crop development progresses. The earliest production region is in the Northern provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo where the harvest starts in November. This is followed by harvesting along the lower Orange River in the Northern Cape from late November and then this moves on to the Olifants River Valley where harvesting starts in mid-December. The last two regions are the Berg River and Hex River production regions where harvesting starts in late December. The latest production region is the Hex River Valley, where harvesting continues until mid-April.
The South African table grape industry is over a century old but remains dynamic in the true sense of constant change. It is through the determined efforts of breeders and intellectual property companies, as well as growers and exporters, who are committed to providing their customers with a premium product, that the introduction of new and improved table grape varieties from local and international breeders, keeps the industry at the forefront of technological advancement and international competitiveness.
Here, red globe table grapes are hand-picked and loaded into crates for transport to the packing shed.
South African grapes are exported to Africa, South East Asia, China, Middle East, Indian Ocean Islands, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Canada and the USA. The bulk of South Africa’s grape exports still go to the important traditional markets in Europe and the UK. Close to half of South African grape exports are shipped to the European Union and around 25% are shipped to the United Kingdom.
Table grapes are primarily consumed fresh as a fruit or used in salads or served with cheese platters. Grapes are an excellent source of Vitamins C and K as well as several other vitamins and nutrients. Grapes are rich in antioxidants, including resveratrol and flavonoids as well as dietary fibre.
By Louise Brodie
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