2023 may yield one of the smallest wine crops in 17 years due to fungus, sunburn

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The lack of electricity needed for irrigation pumps to work is expected to further negatively impact the crop size.
The lack of electricity needed for irrigation pumps to work is expected to further negatively impact the crop size.
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The 2023 wine grape harvest will likely be smaller than last year and could even end up being the fourth smallest crop in 17 years, according to wine producers body Vinpro.

The 2022 wine grape crop was estimated to have been about 1 378 737 tonnes - 5.5% smaller than the 2021 crop.

Vinpro and SA Wine Industry Information & Systems (Sawis) issue regular estimates. The harvest period, which runs from January to April, is still at an early stage.

"The decrease in the estimate is mainly attributed to vineyard uprooting, especially in the Northern Cape, Olifants River, and Swartland," says Conrad Schutte, manager of Vinpro's team of viticulturists.

"Furthermore, high disease pressure, especially the resultant powdery mildew infections in the Northern Cape, Olifants River, Swartland, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Cape South Coast, and Cape Town, will negatively impact the crop size."

Heat in December and January also caused sunburn, especially in the Swartland, Worcester, and Breedekloof. 

Across all regions, mainly the intensively irrigated areas, the lack of electricity needed for irrigation pumps to work is expected to further negatively impact the crop size.

During the second week of December, rain brought some relief, however. 

"The rain eased pressure on irrigation scheduling since groundwater levels were below normal and growers cannot properly apply irrigation scheduling due to load shedding," says Schutte.

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