May 6, 2019 / 3:44 PM / 6 months ago

South Africa's 2019 wine harvest set to hit lowest in more than a decade

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa, the world’s eighth largest wine producer, is expected to harvest its smallest amount of wine grapes in 14 years this year, as dry conditions and fluctuating weather hit output, an industry report said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Workers harvest grapes at the La Motte wine farm in Franschhoek near Cape Town, South Africa in this picture taken January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The report by Vinpro, which represents 2,500 South African wine grape producers, wineries and wine-related businesses said the crop would be 1.4 percent smaller than 2018’s harvest of 1,238,000 tonnes and the lowest output since 2005’s 1,171,632 tonnes.

Industry body South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis) estimates the 2019 wine grape crop at 1,225,620 tonnes.

“It has been a trying year for our wine grape producers and wineries,” said Vinpro’s viticultural consultation service manager Francois Viljoen. “A decline in area under vines and challenging weather conditions contributed to the smaller harvest.”

The 2018/2019 growing season saw warmer than normal temperatures, weather fluctuations and wetter conditions during parts of the season.

Profitability for producers remains a concern despite the average return on investment doubling to 2 percent in 2018 from 1 percent the previous year, Vinpro said in its annual State of the South African Wine Industry report.

Aging vineyards and thinner profitability margins for producers have contributed to a decline in the area planted with wine grapes of around 6 percent over the last five years, Vinpro added.

However it’s not all sour grapes for wine lovers, with the 2019 wine quality expected to be good as smaller grape berries tend to have a greater concentration of flavors, said Viljoen.

The wine industry contributes 36 billion rand ($2.48 billion) to South Africa’s gross domestic product with the winelands, a major draw for tourists, located mostly in the coastal Western Cape province.

The weaker harvest expected in South Africa comes after global wine output rose to near-record highs in 2018 after a sharp rebound from a poor harvest the previous year, though consumption stopped growing, the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) said last month.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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