Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza is set to deliver the keynote address at this year’s Deciduous Fruit Industry Transformation Awards. This, as the who’s who of the agriculture sector will descend on the Mother City for the prestigious event.
Some of Mzansi’s top producers and industry stakeholders will be honoured for their role in transforming the deciduous fruit industry, says Dr Thembi Xaba, chief executive of the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber (DFDC).
Winners will be announced on Thursday, 31 March during a glitzy affair at the Protea Hotel in Stellenbosch. Guests will be welcomed by Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture, while Reghart Strauss, the head of agribusiness in the province, will explore funding solutions for the deciduous fruit industry.
Afasa chairperson Neo Masithela will speak on the role that commodity organisations can play in advancing transformation. This, as Elias Monage, president of the Black Business Council, and Parks Tau, the MEC for economic development and agriculture in Gauteng, has also been confirmed to speak at the event.
In anticipation of the Deciduous Fruit Industry Transformation Awards, Food For Mzansi caught up with Xaba.
Zolani Sinxo: The agriculture sector is buzzing about the upcoming event. We’ve seen a sneak preview of the programme, and you’ve managed to confirm an A-list of speakers. What are you hoping to achieve?
Dr Thembi Xaba: The awards intend to recognise excellence in the transformation space. This recognition is linked to producers and industry role players who have played a meaningful role in accelerating transformation imperatives. The recognition emphasis is elevated in the nomination categories.
It is no secret that the agriculture still has a long way to go to truly transform. What are the biggest issues currently hindering transformation?
The fact of the matter is that access to finance remains the number one barrier towards accelerating transformation. If we look at the deciduous fruit industry as a high-investment and capital-intensive industry, leveraging or accessing finance is even more difficult as opposed to say, for example, farming with cash crops.
Land access and ownership is another challenge, linked to access to water and water rights. There are policy issues which need to create an enabling environment for transformation objectives to thrive, so policy development focus is required.
The deciduous fruit industry has 54 000 hectares under production. It is an industry that commands almost R14 billion in annual turnover.
Black producers and participants command less than 10% of that economy.
Transformation is therefore important to integrate black producers and value chain participants into the deciduous fruit economy. As the industry grows, so should be the growth in percentage of black producers in owning the share of the economy.
Have we achieved much since the dawn of democracy?
It is a mixed bag… Twenty-eight years into democracy, there has been a significant improvement in integrating black producers into the deciduous economy. For example, with programmes implemented over the years. The Jobs Fund and DFDC’s programme increased the number of hectares owned by black producers.
But the reality of the situation is there should be an intentional focus on tapping into the entire value chain segment. In a nutshell, there has been efforts made but there is still lots of work to be done.
What can we look forward to at the upcoming gala dinner?
It will showcase excellence. The narrative that black producers are always waiting for government and dependent on grants to develop their businesses, does not hold.
Again, whilst these producers and role players have managed to run their businesses towards sustainability in light of the challenges like droughts and the Covid-19 pandemic, they have, in turn, invested back in their communities through job creation and improving the livelihoods of the industry.
- For more information on the Deciduous Fruit Industry Transformation Awards, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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