The European market looks very positive, but it will be important to maintain the sales pace after the first containers have arrived, notes Danny Pienaar, sales and marketing specialist at South Africa’s Schoonbee Landgoed. Schoonbee has a handful of containers with Early Sweet grapes on their way to Europe. But the packing station in Wildebeest, where a thousand people work, will only get going properly this week.
“The main reason for the good prospects in Europe is the large harvest loss in California with the passage of Hurricane Hillary. That is why the United States opened earlier to Peruvian imports. The US is Peru’s favorite market, even though Peruvian exporters are still loading always to Europe. But Spain, Italy and Greece also stopped earlier due to bad weather conditions. That is why Europe is relatively empty and good prices can be achieved for South Africa.”
It almost feels, he notes, like a normal market from ten years ago. “But there are many factors at play and the situation can change from one day to the next. We do not know how exchange rates will evolve. In any case, freight prices have fallen slightly. All in all, it could be a very good year for South Africa.”
Danny Pienaar, sales and marketing specialist, and Gert Upton, senior sales and marketing manager at Schoonbee Landgoed
First on the market
The Schoonbee Landgoed cultivation location in Kameelkop has grapes as early as Namibia, but getting to the market first is not Schoonbee’s strategy.
Ten days ago they could have picked grapes and sent a container to Europe, but they do not choose to be the first to enter the market at all costs, Pienaar notes. The fixed costs in a large packing station must be compensated by the available harvest.
Danny is currently a bit worried about the high prices on the European market. The stratospheric wholesale prices at the start of the South African season are not necessarily what they want.
Their strategy is not quick market access with early varieties, but a season of more than three months with more than 50 countries as destinations for their grapes of all colors.
“We pack grapes until February, so we look at the long term. At an extremely high price level, the market can come to a standstill. It doesn’t help if grapes are too expensive. Consumers can’t afford it. It’s much better to to maintain momentum so that you can ultimately sell all your volumes. We prefer a stable price throughout the season over sky-high initial prices.”
Last imported grapes on South African shelves
Imported grapes are still available on the domestic market, but at prices that consumers are no longer willing to pay.
“At the beginning of last week a carton of grapes cost R500 (€25). That doesn’t make any sense. The volumes only start to sell smoothly from around R200 (€10) per carton, so retailers can sell them for R30 (€1.50). ) per punnet. Higher prices do not make sense for the consumer. Now some retailers are still selling imported grapes for R70 or R80 (€4) per punnet. They are simply left behind.”
Punnets as packaging material have risen considerably in price and this will be a significant expense for packing stations that do not order large volumes. Last season, power outages also caused a shortage. Schoonbee Landgoed has therefore prepared well to prevent last season’s shortages.
Schoonbee also packs grapes in heat seal punnets. That means less plastic, but they are more expensive and do not always guarantee the same quality during the long transit, he says.
Schoonbee has also made export quality available on its online store so that South African customers can enjoy exceptional quality at local prices.
For more information:
Tel: +27 13 262 4000 (South Africa)