South Africa’s citrus industry is shining on the international trade arena. In the last two weeks, it not only shipped off its first citrus shipment to the Philippines, but also signed a multi-million rand trade deal with China.
However, ever if the industry wishes to stay on this positive trajectory, closer collaboration with all stakeholders is required. This, according to Nonkqubela Pieters, MEC for rural development and agrarian reform in the Eastern Cape.
Pushing to develop the citrus industry in her province, Pieters has been crisscrossing the Eastern Cape to lead citrus harvesting sessions in producing regions.
“Citrus, wool and mohair are some of the economic corridors in the area and while we explore other avenues, let’s continue to build a formidable sector in all respects,” Pieters said while visiting citrus growers in the Sunday’s River Valley this week.
According to Pieters this means that growers will need to be primary, secondary and tertiary producers in order to add value to their resources.
“But in order for us to continue lifting the country’s flag high in the commodity [of citrus], we need to work together and align our visions and plans.”
‘The future belongs to the young and fresh’
Meanwhile, Pieters’ department reports that many farmers are struggling with the effects of current climatic conditions, largely contributed to global warming.
However, citrus growers in the Sunday’s River Valley local municipality have expressed delight and fulfilment in the current conditions. To them, fewer winds guarantee high-quality yields with reduced leaf marks on their fruits.
During her visit, Pieters reiterated that government’s plan was to strengthen the already thriving sector. The state hopes to do this by improving farmworkers’ working conditions, catapulting new entrants and penetration of the market.
Pieters committed that her department wOULD liaise with the national AGRICULTURE department to speed up the process of title deeds.
“The future belongs to the young and fresh. That is why even you as farmers keep planting new trees when the old ones can no longer bear fruits,” she said.
“It is for this reason that we want to create a conducive environment that will allow young people to thrive in their province; not elsewhere because our precious resource in the Eastern Cape is farmland.”
Citrus producers in the Sunday’s River Valley local municipality are among the top agricultural employers with more than 4 000 workers.
Challenges in Amathole district
Recently, Pieters also led a harvesting session with citrus farmers in Upper Kat River in the Amathole district.
These farmers create jobs for more than 1 000 locals with the majority of the jobs being seasonal.
Addressing Upper Kat growers Pieters said, “This area is known as the citrus belt of the province, and it has great potential.
“Government alone cannot create jobs, but creates a conducive environment for businesses like yours to expand, create jobs and have a meaningful contribution in the country’s economy.”