Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
Load-shedding takes its toll on wine grape harvest
The 2023 wine grape harvest is expected to be substantially smaller than the 2022 harvest and the fourth-smallest of the past 17 years, Conrad Schutte, manager of consultation services at Vinpro, said at the recent Nedbank Vinpro Information Day.
To put this in context, the 2022 harvest was 5,5% smaller than the 2021 crop at 1,38 million tons, but still larger than the latest fiveyear average of 1,35 million tons.
“Production is expected to be down in all wine-producing regions, and substantially down in the Northern Cape and Swartland. The exception is the Klein Karoo, where production was negatively affected by drought and is now expected to increase,” Schutte said.
The 2022 season would also go down as one of the most expensive.
He said that sufficient irrigation water was available, despite lower dam levels, but producers faced continued irrigation challenges with load-shedding, which negatively affected the size of the harvest. Many farmers had invested in permanent and mobile diesel generators to alleviate the impact of rolling blackouts on production, which drove up production costs.
Dry and warm conditions during the growing season had added further pressure, which was seen in the disruption of veraison and in sunburn damage. Hail damage in some regions and wind in others, coupled with an increase in mildew problems, had added pressure on producers.
Along with this, farmers had incurred additional labour costs, as well as spraying and diesel costs, to mitigate these conditions.
Schutte said that most regions were taking some vineyards out of production because of poor margins. Worcester was an exception, with just over 60ha planted in 2019 and 2020. The Northern Cape and Olifants River, which accounted for most removals, had taken out 1 848ha and 2 503ha respectively since 2016.