AGRICULTURE: 2011 Wine Grape Harvest Will Be Smaller
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The 2011 crop is currently estimated to amount to 1 255 561 tons. According to surveys in mid-February by producer cellars and viticulturists in the various regions, the crop will be approximately 0.3% smaller than the 2010 harvest. Despite the total decrease, seven districts expect a bigger crop than in 2010. The 2011 wine grape crop – including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine – is expected to amount to 969.3 million litres, calculated at an average recovery of 772 litres per ton of grapes.
Decreases since the January estimate may be ascribed to the following causes:
Flood damage and rain that have occurred in the Orange River region since December 2010. The extent of the damage will have enormous cost implications for producers. Many vineyards are flooded, the implication being a total crop loss for those blocks. Grapes in many other blocks have started to rot and outbreaks of fungal disease prevail. Estimates are that at least 36 000 tons of grapes from the initial anticipated wine grape harvest were destroyed by floods and showers – the figure may yet be higher.
Bunch and berry sizes are smaller than previous years and bunches are generally quite loose. This may be ascribed to weak set and millerandage.
Limited irrigation water due to low water levels – except in the Orange and Olifants River districts – impacted on the size of the crop, while heatwaves caused sunburn and heat damage. In dryland vineyards the soil water status is below average and vines are showing signs of moisture stress.
Disease pressure and rot have caused crop losses.
Winemakers and viticulturists are satisfied with the quality of the grapes that have been crushed so far. Grapes are generally healthy with good analyses, and at this stage the quality of red cultivars in particular appears to be excellent, according to SAWIS.
Domestic sales of natural wine for 2010 show that the market increased by 2.7%. On the other hand exports of total natural wine decreased by 4.6% during 2010. Brandy sales show a 7.0% decrease over the same period.
The stock level on 31 December 2011 at producer and private cellars is expected to decrease to a level of 314,1 million litres, compared to 338,3 million litres on 31 December 2010.
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