Elgin, Western Cape

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The undulating hills of the vast Elgin valley - source of much of South Africa's deciduous fruit exports.

Elgin is a large, lush area of land, circled by mountains, in the Overberg region of South Africa. This broad upland valley lies about 70 km southeast of Cape Town, just beyond the Hottentots Holland Mountains. The Elgin region is centered around the town of Grabouw.

A group of apple farms called Glen Elgin - owned by the Molteno family - gave the place its name. Originally named Koffiekraal, it was a place to unhitch oxen from the wagons between Bot River and Palmiet River on the Cape Town to Caledon road. The Elgin Valley is now internationally known as the place in South Africa “where the apples come from”.[1] The area is one of the more intensively farmed districts of South Africa and produces 60% of the national apple crop.


Old buildings on the outskirts of Grabouw
Main article: Grabouw

Today, the town of Grabouw, in the heart of the vast Elgin Valley, is the commercial centre for what is the largest single export fruit producing area in Southern Africa.

Grabouw was created on the farm Grietjiesgat acquired on 22 November 1856 by Wilhelm Langschmidt, who named the place after Grabow, the village of his birth in Germany. His wife opened a small trading store and he was the bookkeeper. Later he sold parts of his farm and so began the farming community of Grabouw as it was later spelled. Langschmidt was the father of 23 children, including 3 sets of twins.

History and development of the Elgin valley[edit]

Glen Elgin produce being loaded for export at Cape Town harbour.
The station on Glen Elgin, now principally for commercial use.

The railway station of Elgin was built on land given by the Molteno brothers, owners of the farm Glen Elgin. The Molteno name is among the foremost pioneers in the Elgin Valley, however the Molteno brothers only began large scale deciduous farming after hearing from an even earlier farmer in the region, Sir Antonie Viljoen, of how well his labourers' experimental apple trees seemed to grow in the valley.[2]

Sir Antonie Viljoen, a medical doctor who graduated from Edinburgh University in Scotland, established Oak Valley Estate in the Elgin Valley in 1898. Sir Antonie was also an MP in the Cape Parliament and was knighted in 1916 for his efforts to bring together the Boer and the British in the bitter aftermath of the Second Boer War (1899–1902). Sir Antonie, who signed up as a medical officer with the Boer army during the war, was placed under house arrest on the Oak Valley property for the remainder of the campaign after his capture by the British. His internment on Oak Valley was only granted on condition that he paid for the services of two British soldiers to guard him for the duration of the war!

Antonie Viljoen was a farmer extraordinaire, and amongst his many farming achievements were the establishment of the first commercial deciduous fruit orchards in the Elgin valley. These orchards were the precursor to the development of the apple industry in Elgin, which remains the economic backbone of the valley to this day. Viljoen’s vision was similarly reflected in a decision to plant a substantial area of vineyard for wine grape production. This was followed in 1908 by the commissioning of the first wine cellar in the Elgin valley. Regretfully the cellar was taken out of production in the early 1940s. Up until that time, the Elgin valley was regarded as a low potential agricultural area, but Sir Antonie's vision was to change this perception forever.

In 1966, on Applethwaite farm, Edmond Lombardi created and introduced to the market a 100% apple-juice beverage, free of additives and preservatives, known as Appletiser. Appletiser[3] is now owned by SAB Miller and is sold across Europe, Asia, and North America.

Deciduous fruit, Flowers and Wine[edit]


Today the Elgin valley is renowned for its apples and pears, its greenhouse cut flowers, its rose growing, and, increasingly, for the production of high quality cool climate wines.

Over 40 percent of South Africa’s apple production is exported,[4] and the Elgin Valley produces about 60 percent of the total annual apple crop of about 819,000 metric tonnes (2012 data).[5] Industry and government export estimates can vary slightly. The United Kingdom is the top destination for South African apples, with Malaysia, Benin and Netherlands as the next largest importers of South African apples. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious were the top apple varieties exported in 2007/08. South Africa is said to be the only southern hemisphere county that produces a top quality Golden Delicious apple, a major advantage against competing exporting countries.

See also[edit]

Elgin Apple Museum [1]


  1. ^ Elgin Valley Information Center http://www.elginvalley.co.za/default.aspx, 3 August 2009
  2. ^ S. Stander: Tree of Life. The Story of Cape Fruit. S&W Ltd. Cape Town. 1983. p.62.
  3. ^ Appletiser USA website http://www.appletiser.net/aw/applications/aw/usa/home.html, 8 December 2009
  4. ^ USDA Foreign Agricultural Service: GAIN Report Number: SF8016, pub. 19 June 2008
  5. ^ Binard, M. Phillipe. "WAPA Releases Southern Hemisphere Apple and Pear Crop Forecasts". WAPA Press Release. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 

34°08′55″S 19°02′34″E / 34.14861°S 19.04278°E / -34.14861; 19.04278