Covid-19, rains cost N. Cape raisin industry R500 million

The raisin industry looks ready for a bounce-back after the pandemic and exceptionally high rainfall slowed job creation and put export revenue under pressure. Part of the recovery plan are R30 million worth of development projects to drive transformation

raisins industry

The raisin industry is hard at work to mitigate challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Raisins SA/Facebook

Raisins South Africa boss Ferdie Botha believes that the year 2022-2023 is set to be better as the industry tries to come back from disruptive Covid-19 years which led to the loss of revenue and slow job creation.

Botha was speaking with Food For Mzansi on the sidelines at the planting ceremony of a lucerne project in Kakamas in the Northern Cape, The project, with R3,2 million invested by the provincial department of agriculture, will grow feed for farmers impacted by the ongoing drought in the area.

Ferdie Botha, CEO of Raisins South Africa. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

He said collaboration between the private sector, organised agriculture and government was key to ensure that far flung areas which are rich in resources can flourish and develop.

Q: How was the most recent raisins harvest in the Northern Cape? Did you achieve your goals?

A: Our initial crop forecast for the raisins industry was 86 000 tonnes, however we had a lot of unnecessary rain when we were drying grapes so that was a great challenge for our growers. At moment the total intake volume is at 72 000 tonnes, so the rain impacted our operations in a way.

Q: Covid-19 threw us all a highly disruptive curveball. How did the pandemic impact your industry?

A: The two previous seasons, 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 where challenging seasons for the industry because of Covid-19 and a lot of rain – far above the average rainfall for the area – so it was two not-so-good seasons.

 A total volume intake was 71 000 tonnes, while in the 2019/2020 season we were sitting at 85 000 tonnes. So went down at about 20% for this season, which is roughly a loss of R500 million which is quite significant for an area which is heavily reliant on agriculture.

Q: What are the most important projects Raisins SA has in the pipeline for the year ahead?

A: We are working with a development fund where we as part of the industry mandate is to proactively drive the transformation in the sector. So we have about R30 million worth of projects which are set to focus on raisins development and which we will be executing in the next two years.

Q: What are your concerns when it comes to infrastructure in the province?

A: I think our road infrastructure in the Northern Cape is relatively good. The challenge was when it was raining too much [in some areas], we had farmers who could not access their farms. Another challenge was small bridges being under water which made it difficult to cross over on them.

So, we had a lot of commercial farmers having trouble in moving from and to the fields. We believe that government is investing a lot of money on bulk infrastructure which we hope to see improving in the future.

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