I heard it through the grapevine! Did you know Hexkoel is a cold storage facility in the Hex River Valley and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere?
The Hex River Valley is the biggest producer of table grapes in South Africa. The economy of the area is based almost entirely on the production of table grapes for the export market and export to countries like Europe, UK, Canada, China, Malaysia and even Israel. Approximately 18 million cartons of grapes are exported annually during the grape season. The quality of the grapes here is what drives this market.
The table grape industry developed in the valley, and one of the most successful varieties produced in the valley was the black seeded grape Barlinka, which was smuggled in from Algeria by Professor Izak Perold, hidden in his cane into the valley.
The wine cellar with the longest harvest season in the world is also situated here – De Doorns Wine Cellar. The harvesting season runs from early January until mid April.
Hexkoel is the point of delivery for table grapes harvested in the valley and adjacent production areas. Farmers deliver their grapes and once at the facility, the grapes are pre-cooled to the correct temperature for storage and then dispatched to the international and local market destinations.
Willem Steenkamp (Operations Manager at Hexkoel) took us to the off-loading area and this is quite something to see! A dedicated team places the pallets into the cold storage with forklifts moving at the speed of light and within a few minutes a line of loaded trucks have been cleared and ready to go!
We also got to taste some different varieties such as Crimson, Autumn Crisp, Sweet Joy, Timco, Alison, Sweet Globe and the long unusual black grape called Sweet Sapphire which is very popular in China.
Visiting Hexkoel was a highlight of the trip and was amazing to learn about table grapes – from growing grapes to different kinds of varieties to storage and exporting. I walked out of there with a huge respect that such a small berry plays a big part in our country’s economy.