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Didiza approves R134 million boost for citrus growers

The new statutory citrus export levy for 2021 is expected to raise an additional R134 million to be used for, among others, research and transformation within the citrus industry

The Batlhako Temo Co-operative in North West are claiming a segment of the juicy citrus export market after receiving funding from the North West government. Photo: Supplied

More than 1 200 growers will benefit from a R134 million boost to the citrus industry following the final green light for the new statutory export levy, as approved by Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

The levy increase, which has now been gazetted, was presented by the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA). The statutory levy increased from 74c per 15kg carton in 2020 to R1,64 per carton in 2021, confirmed Justin Chadwick, chief executive of the CGA.

Funding obtained from these levies would be utilised for research, transformation of the sector, increased market access and administration, logistics, and information.

READ MORE: Citrus growers call for 120% export levy

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association and chairperson of Fruit SA’s board. Photo: CGA

Applied on the exports of all citrus fruit, the levy has been in place since 2004 and will continue to be administered by the CGA.

Chadwick said the increase will ensure both the long-term competitiveness of the industry and the sustainable growth of black-owned citrus enterprises.

“Twenty percent of the new citrus export levy will be allocated to the development of black citrus growers, as well as their meaningful and lasting participation in the sector.

“This funding will be invested in the CGA’s recently finalised four-year transformation plan (2021 to 2024), which will be implemented through the association’s Grower Development Company and the Citrus Academy,” he says.

CGA indicates that the plan will focus on three key areas:

  • the provision of enterprise and supplier development programmes for black growers;
  • the provision of skills development programmes for black growers; and
  • the roll-out of socio-economic development programmes in rural communities and ensuring the sustainable growth of black-owned enterprises, as well as greater representation of black growers in industry leadership positions.

With the citrus industry expected to increase its exports by over 500 000 tonnes over the next three to five years, investment in research and development is critical to ensure the sector remains competitive in overseas markets, Chadwick believes.

The new citrus levy will ensure the sustainable growth of black-owned citrus enterprises. Photo: Supplied

“For this reason, 60% of the new citrus export levy will be allocated to Citrus Research International (CRI) to provide research and technical services to growers. This is a pre-requisite for gaining, retaining, and optimising market access, which is a key priority for the industry over the short, medium, and long term.”

Chadwick foresees that one of the main challenges preventing increased market access would be the stringent phytosanitary requirements some countries implement. The new citrus levy will help the CRI enhance the phytosanitary assistance it offers growers, including providing counterfoils for unjustified regulatory disruptions and changing regulations.

Wayne Mansfield won the 2018 Western Cape New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture Award three years after he started farming with lemons. Photo: Supplied

“The remaining 20% of the new citrus export levy will be allocated to several other programmes.

“These include working with government and other stakeholders to improve national transport infrastructure and logistics capacity, including the country’s rail and port operations.”

With most citrus growers having voted in favour of the levy increase, Chadwick said they are pleased that Didiza has given the green light to implement the new levy.

The citrus industry expects another record-breaking export season in 2021 despite the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are confident that the new levy will enable the industry to grow its market share even further and, as a result, create even more jobs. Moreover, it will bring in increased revenue for the country’s economy over the next four years.”

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