Record Harvest for Consortium

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By Chrispin Inambao AUSSENKEHR THE Grape Valley Management Company under whose roof several farms are managed will this season export 1,5 million boxes of fruit to the U.K. and to markets in Europe. AndrÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Vermaak, the General Manager of Grape Valley Management Company, says the 1,5 million cartons each weighing 4,5 kg translates into an increase of 20 percent on the 1,1 million boxes exported by the fruit consortium in the previous marketing season. Twenty percent of the fruit is being exported to supermarkets in the United Kingdom (UK), seventy seven percent is packed for continental Europe and markets in the Far East would absorb the remaining three percent of the fruit produce, according to Vermaak. The International Grape Company (IGC) contributed the lion’s share of fruit with 600 000 cartons followed by Namibian Grape Export (Pty) Ltd (Nagrapex) with 350 000 boxes, Aussenkehr Farms contributed 290 000 units while Nivex Enterprises (Pty) Ltd produced 200 000 cartons. Sixty thousand cartons came from the harvest from the Orange River Vineyard Investments Pty Ltd (ORVI). “The quality is better. The increase in production is 15 percent that is 185 000 more cartons,” said the general manager of the Grape Valley Management Company. Though grape prices being fetched on the international market remained constant when compared to the ones offered last year, Vermaak said local producers are happy because their produce would fetch more because the high price level will last until January. “There is a considerable increase in volume on the pre-Christmas period compared to 2004 that makes a huge difference in income,” he said. He attributed the record increase to sound management principles and the fact that many of the vineyards have reached full production. Unlike in Paarl and in the Hex River Valley in South Africa where grape farmers have a history of sixty years of grape production, farmers in the Grape Valley at Aussenkehr have to be innovative all the time trying out new methods of production and even “new recipes”. “There is always a new recipe or new technique. What is important is the fact that what works in Paarl does not necessarily work here. We are distant from each other and there are different soil types,” he explained at his office at the Grape Valley Management Com- pany. With the intention to enhance and to improve production, the fruit consortium has started sending samples of dried grape leaves from various farms under its management to a state-of-the-art laboratory at PHOSYN in Leeds in the U.K where they are analysed for trace elements such as manganese, calcium, boran, copper, zinc, sulphur, nitrogen, potassium, After analysing the samples PHOSYN usually makes comment on whether there is a deficiency in a certain trace element or if its presence is normal and makes recommendations on the remedial action, if any, to be taken by the grape consortium. Initially the leave samples were being sent to a lab in neighbouring South Africa but this changed after Vermaak visited the state-of-the-art facility in the U.K – so advanced when compared to the one found in the neighbouring economic powerhouse. He also said relations between grape farmers and the new Minister of Agriculture, Water and Foresty Dr Nicky Iyambo have improved for the better as previously the ministry had a frosty relationship with this budding but relatively important agricultural industry. Negotiations that once concluded would enable Namibian grape farmers to export to markets in the U.S.A. have also reached advanced stages. Vermaak is optimistic that local producers would be able to meet the rigorous requirements being stipulated by the U.S.A. because Namibia does not have grape diseases such as the ones found in the Upington area in South Africa whose produce is exported to America.