A potential shortage of southern hemisphere seedless grapes over the pre-Christmas period could lead to South African growers airfreighting emergency supplies to the UK, according to Martin Dunnett, trading director of Capespan UK.
The Mediterranean crop will have come to a close by then, and there are reports that Brazil, which supplied the pre-Christmas period last year, may focus its attention elsewhere this winter.
Dunnett said that South African grape producers had flown produce out in the past, but not for some time, as it was more costly.
But the possibility of a supply shortage this year could make the extra cost worthwhile.
“It could be quite a lively time for the industry,” Dunnett said, “particularly if Brazil decides to concentrate on shipping to the United States.”
Dunnett said that Prime, the first variety grown in South Africa’s Orange River region, was due to arrive, as scheduled, by sea at the end of this month, followed later in the year by Sugarone and Thompson Seedless, which extends the season through until March.
He added: “Overall volumes have the potential to be much heavier this year and could reach a total of 15 million cartons compared with 11 million last season.”
South Africa is also gearing up to send early stone fruit to the UK.
But growers have warned that their volumes overall will be down by up to 20% on usual output levels, because cold and wet weather has hit the crops’ pollination rates.