CAPE TOWN–The South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) says farmers are expecting a positive yield this year despite a gruelling previous two seasons brought on by drought which has persisted in southern Africa for more than two years.

SATI Chief Executive Officer Willem Bestbier said Tuesday that a yield of 70 million cartons was expected this season after a reduction of nearly 10 per cent last year.

Two years ago, the drought nearly brought table grape farmers in the Olifants River region to their knees. For many, it was the worst drought in many decades and losses of more than 100 million Rand (about 6.6 million US dollars) were recorded.

Last year, production was down by 30 per cent in the five table grape-growing regions of the country, with the three in Western Cape Province and Olifants River in the northern part of South Africa, in particular, suffering the most.

Bestbier said it would take years for many producers to recover, but crop estimates for the whole industry this year looked very promising. If conditions continued to be favourable, this season could be record-breaking, he added.

Dam levels are just close to double what it was last year but now it depends on how the plant, the vine, responds a year after a severe drought. Remember, we’ve had three (years) of drought. So that’s the signs we don’t fully understand yet,” he said.

“But we are hopeful, the vineyard or the vine is a robust plant and the available signs are that it will recover fairly quickly.

While the rains are the most important factor, there was also an increase in the number of new vineyards planted. More than 5,000 new hectares will be coming into full production this season and the entire value chain will benefit from the improved situation.

Bestbier said: Growers tried to preserve the job opportunities as best as they could, and they’ve achieved pretty good in doing that but remember we’re also talking about expansion of hectares and with every hectare in our industry does provide new jobs so we’re projecting growth in the long run again.