South Africa’s grape, apple, and pear exports in 2017-18 will be off because below-average rainfall will limit production, according to the U.S.Department of Agriculture.

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service reports drought and low water levels in reservoirs in the Western Cape region have reduced export expectations.

The report said the Western Cape region is the largest producer of deciduous fruits in South Africa, though the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and Limpopo provinces have gained in importance in the last 20 years.

Grape outlook

The USDA report forecasts that 2017-18 table grape exports will decline 15% to 258,000 metric tons, owing to a decrease in area harvested and small fruit size in the Western Cape growing areas. On the other hand, normal production and growing conditions are expected in the Orange River growing regions.

South African grapes are normally harvested from October to May, with the report stating first grapes come from the Northern Cape Region and the season ending with the Hex River Valley, according to the report.

The U.S. and Canadian markets have increased imports of South Africa grapes the past few years, but still accounted for just 3% of total exports last season. The European Union takes about 75% of South Africa’s fresh grape exports, the report said.

South Africa’s leading grape varieties, based on planted area, are crimson sedless (24%), thompson seedless (8%), flame seedless (7%), sugraone (6%), red globe (6%) and the sugrathirteen (5%).

Apples and pears

South Africa’s 2017-18 apple exports are forecast to decline 5% to 500,000 metric tons because of reduced harvest area, smaller fruit size and limited irrigation water, according to the USDA.

Africa takes about 40% of South Africa’s apple exports, followed by the European Union with 30% and Asia with 19%.

Only light volumes are shipped to the U.S, according to the report.

Meanwhile, South Africa pear exports in 2017-18 are projected at 250,000 metric tons, down 3% from the previous year.

About half of South Africa’s pear exports are shipped to Europe, with typically about 1,000 metric tons or less destined to the U.S. market.