A shortage of grapes on the UK market has forced Capespan, to revert to air shipment. A late start to the South African season from the Orange River and a drought in California sparked off supply problems, said Martin Dunnett, Capespan's UK procurement manager.

Last year, California propped up UK supplies with big shipments of red seedless. It's pushed wholesale prices up to £12 per 4.5kg carton compared with £7 a year ago. News from the Orange River is that it's on course for a substantial crop of between 13 and 15 million cartons. "There will be good volumes in January, starting with Prime and Sugarone. Thompson Seedless will arrive at the end of February," said Dunnett.

He revealed Namibia is set to become a valuable early season exporter, with huge expansion of its area under vine. "The region has the scope to grow between two to two-and-a-half million cartons of Flame and early Thompson."