Tshepiso Mokhema

South Africa’s harvest of grapes for wine production may fall 4.7 percent this year from a record crop last year, according to a US government report released recently.

Farmers would probably produce 1.42 million tons this season compared with 1.49 million tons harvested last year, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) foreign agricultural service.

South Africa may bottle about 1.1 billion litres of wine this year, less than the 1.2 billion litres packaged last year.

South Africa was the eighth-largest wine producer in 2012, accounting for 4 percent of global output, according to the SA Wine Industry Information and Systems. Since then, exports have been boosted by the depreciation of the rand, the worst-performing major currency against the dollar last year after it lost 19 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It has declined 4.1 percent this year.

“With a grape crop of 1.42 million litres, a continuing depreciation of the rand against major currencies, and the shift to bulk exports, [South Africa] will export about 500 million litres of wine in 2014,” the USDA said.

The country shipped a record 518 million litres last year, it said. Last year’s bumper harvest allowed South Africa to fill the gap created by a poor European crop, Stellenbosch-based Wines of South Africa chief executive Siobhan Thompson said in a statement on its website in January.

Total export volumes rose 26 percent to 525.7 million litres last year when compared with a year earlier, while exports to the UK climbed 21 percent and those to Germany jumped 24 percent, according to Wines of South Africa. Shipments to Russia gained 18 percent to 37.3 million litres, it said in January. – Bloomberg