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Namibian Grapes set to Conquer US Market

Published date:
Friday, 15 July 2005

Tucked on a mountain slope across a road from the barren desert of southeastern Namibia, rows of lush green vineyards are producing grapes enjoyed in Europe, China, the Middle East and soon, in the United States.

Temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius in the summer do not deter thousands of seasonal workers from flocking to this hidden corner close to the village of Noordoewer near the border with South Africa to harvest the high quality seedless grapes.

From here, the sweet-tasting grapes mostly of the green Thompson seedless sort and others like Dan Ben Hannah and crimson-coloured Red Globe head to shops in Europe where 85 percent of the produce is sold.

"Namibian table grapes are the first to reach European markets - already in November," says Helmut Angula, director general of Namibia's National Planning Commission.

"Grapes from other countries of the southern hemisphere mature about a month later, which is our competitive advantage."

Seven grape companies are cultivating 1 300 hectares, irrigated by water from the nearby Orange River, and another 2 000 hectares will be put to cultivation soon, says Andre Vermaak, general manager of Namibia's Grape Valley Management Company.

The niche agricultural industry launched nine years ago in Namibia could soon get a boost as the US market prepares to open up to the grapes from the desert country under the government's African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

Namibia will be able to export the grapes duty- and quota-free to the United States under the terms of Agoa, a trade and development program launched five years ago and which is to be discussed at a meeting opening Monday in Dakar with some 37 African countries.

US agriculture experts are due in Namibia soon to inspect the grapes and ensure they meet requirements for pest control and other sanitary requirements.

According to Vermaak, grape growers employ 1 300 Namibians year-round and another 6 000 seasonal workers are hired during harvesting.

If additional hectares are planted, 2 000 more jobs will be created in an area of the country hard hit by unemployment, which is affecting close to a third of Namibians nationwide.

In 2004, production came to 3 million cartons, with earnings of 200 million Namibian dollars (R198 million), the Namibian Orange River Table Grape Association (NORTGA) said.

The first vineyards in Namibia were grown by Roman Catholic priests from former colonial ruler Germany one hundred years ago in the mountain valleys of Windhoek, producing a quality white wine and a potent schnapps, aptly called "Katholischer".

Production was halted in the 60s, when the last wine-making priest died and the vineyards made way for building classrooms for the church school.

But after Namibia's independence in 1990, the tradition was revived and new vineyards were planted 800 kilometres further south along the Orange River, albeit not for wine-making.

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Namibia’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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