06 January 2017 – Capespan, which grows grapes in Namibia and South African regions, is investing in new grape varieties considering that their main traditional variety can deliver over a longer period of time for an extended grape growing season.
The extended growing season supplies varieties like Thompson for six or seven weeks instead of three according to Kobus Bothma from Capespan Namibia.
“This year we started on 4 November and packing will continue till the first week of January,” Bothmas said.
According to Bothmas, new varieties like Cotton Candy, Sweet Saphire, Jack Salute, Magenta,Timco, Melody, Sweet Celebration, Arra 10, 13, 14 and 15, are being tested at the Namibia Grape Company at Aussenkehr in the Karas region.
“The new test plot started with 21 trial varieties planted last year which will be tested over a 3 year period,” he added.
“We are still looking to extend the season by starting earlier, at the moment it is week 44 but we could go a couple of weeks earlier with new varieties. It is an advantage for us to have this gap in the market when we start,” Bothma said, adding that this creates large demand when packing the Early Sweet and Flame varieties, just in time to compete with Northern Cape growers who pack Crimson seedless in the Hex River, in March, while Capespan packs before Christmas.
“The aim for us is to produce good quality grapes at an economical cost. If you can do that you will always be competitive in the global market,” he said.
According to Bothma, one has to plant something which the market wants. “For example if the market wants Cotton Candy then we will test the variety to see how it produces here. The market for Cotton Candy is not that big, so we will produce the variety and supply to certain niche markets,” he explained.
“Everyone is talking about the market becoming flooded with grapes but there are still so many markets to be developed, such as China and the African market,” he said.
“Africa is also becoming a bigger player and the market more refined. A few years ago we only sold cartons but the market now moved towards punnets. The African markets are very close to us so we can supply by means of trucks. The cooling facilities do need to improve but there are a few South African retailers opening new outlets and they have good cold storage facilities,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kobus said that the Far East markets can also still expand a lot and he thinks that this particular market can not become flooded soon.
“These days you have to put a huge effort into marketing grapes and it is no longer a case of just producing and shipping the product. You need to invest in new varieties and special lines. Punnets are becoming the norm as people are moving away from buying loose packaging,” he concluded.