By Chrispin Inambao AUSSENKEHR A PROMINENT figure in the export-oriented grape industry at Aussenkehr, Achilles de Naeyer says his firm – Grape Valley Packers (GVP) – would exceed by a huge margin the amount of fruit to be harvested in 2005 when compared to last season. Despite these economies of scale, De Naeyer says the quality of the fruit would not be compromised by the expected large harvest but instead the EurepGap-certified GVP intends to broaden its market to America by the next harvest in November 2006. GVP already fulfils stringent standards set by the monitoring agency, the Perishable Product Export Control Board (PPECB), whose benchmarks are accepted globally. Thus far grapes produced by GVP are being sold at supermarkets in Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, the U.K., continental Europe, Middle East and in the Far East. The red seeded grape varieties such as the Red Globe are exported mainly to Asia and Southern Europe and depending on the market situation some fruit is transhipped to Russia and Poland, either from Rotterdam or directly. He says: “We considerably expect to exceed last year’s volumes. We harvested a whole range of red and white seedless grapes, white seeded, dark seeded and red seeded varieties. Volumes are up because we are now reaching the stage of full production for the early planted vineyards.” On plans for market expansion of his firm, De Naeyer, the Managing Director of GVP, said the latest developments with regard to the USA and Canada “look positive”. “We are in the final process to finalise the PRA (Pest Risk Analysis) and we shall have our final meetings with USA delegates and hope we can start from the next crop in November 2006,” he said. Though the volumes of fruit look good, De Naeyer echoed the views of other grape farmers who are concerned with the firming of the South African rand/Namibian dollar saying it reduces their earnings when they finally convert their earnings into local currency. The grape industry is overcoming the issue of the strong currency by streamlining its operations and increasing the production yield, bundling and through the optimal use of existing infrastructure to ensure its competitiveness on the world markets. Namibian growers have an edge over their rivals. For instance Chile, one of the major producers, is more focussed on markets in the USA and it only ships to Europe when Namibian farmers have already sold their produce. Brazil, another major producer is early on the market and it finishes its shipments more or less when the local fruit comes in “so we still have that market niche in the overseas markets,” said De Naeyer. The firm has a capacity to process and to pack 600 000 boxes of grapes and by 2006 it intends to expand its facilities so that it can double the present handling capacity. Last year, GVP exported 750 000 cartons of grapes to major international markets. The quality of Namibian grapes is on par if not better when compared to the major producers “and is now recognised in all markets,” enthused De Naeyer. Apart from the strong currency, another concern being shared by insiders in this industry are grape growers of a fly-by-night variety merely looking for quick money. De Naeyer feels the fragmentation of this industry is a major concern as it could compromise the existing high standards set by those already in grape farming. He said there are people who are looking for short-term profit without making any long-term commitment whatsoever to this rather capital-intensive industry. On a general note he said: One notices now a stage of consolidation and a slight upwards tendency and I think the industry as a whole is now heading in the right direction. We pack for the local market and Southern African markets in general.” GVP has a workforce of several hundreds of both seasonal and permanent workers.
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