Table Grape production is a highly competitive global business. For most growers production costs have risen much faster than the returns that they can achieve in the market. Many of the traditional seedless table grape varieties are no longer profitable and the demand of the consumer is changing.
Growers need good new varieties which are more productive, easier to produce and therefore more cost-effective, but at the same time continue to provide the quality and value required to satisfy today’s consumers.
Labour is by far the biggest single production cost. Recent changes in labour costs in South Africa had a massive influence on total production costs of table grapes. These changes have prompted growers to re-asses their business plan. Essentially it comes down to either cutting on expenditure or planting varieties which require less input and satisfy market demand.
At SNFL we focus on varieties with lower labour requirements when it comes to selecting. We develop varieties that can crop on spurs or half canes, eliminating the need for full cane pruning systems which are very labour intensive. We need to reduce or eliminate the need for hand-working to prepare the bunches for harvest. We focus on varieties with large and uniform natural berry size, with good fertility and naturally loose bunches to remove the need for berry thinning. Our red and black varieties colour naturally, without the need for expensive ethrel sprays, which in any case reduce shelf-life.
However, the creation of good new varieties is only part of the process. Every variety needs its own unique production protocol to enable our growers to get the best possible results – both in terms of quality and profitability. Every season our agronomy and viticulture experts monitor all our trial sites locally, but also internationally. We use this information, together with the critical observations of our licensee growers, to develop these essential production protocols for each of our varieties.