The Eastern Cape department of agriculture is on a mission to level up in deciduous fruit farming. To do this, the province is looking to the Western Cape to explore collaboration and research-sharing opportunities.
South Africa’s deciduous fruit industry consists mainly of pome fruit (apples and pears), stone fruit (apricots, peaches & nectarines and plums) as well as table grapes. According to the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), the total area planted for deciduous fruit in South Africa amounts to 74 246 hectares.
Most of these fruits are produced in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Siphokazi Ndudane, the head of the department for the Eastern Cape department of rural development and agrarian reform, said they were exploring ways in which their province could increase its deciduous fruit footprint. She unpacks how they intend to do this.
Tiisetso Manoko: The Eastern Cape is partnering with the Western Cape to up its game in deciduous fruit farming. Why is this so important?
Siphokazi Ndudane: The are several similarities between the Western Cape and Eastern Cape in those commodities, so we are looking at how best we can foster collaboration between the two provinces at a provincial government and institutional level.
Our aim is to come together, share expertise and research work done by two provinces. The commodities in our province are doing well, however, we think there is space for growth and development, especially for farmers.
I do not want to shy away from the fact that there are so many success stories that we [Eastern Cape] can learn from our counterparts in the Western Cape and vice versa.
How will government grow this sub-sector when infrastructure remains a concern for farmers?
Indeed, we are looking at infrastructure development that can be shared by both provinces and by farmers as well.
If we are to advance these commodities and assist our farmers, we need to work together and have mutual collaboration and benefit. All of us must be around the table.
For instance, the citrus sector is prevalent in two provinces. There is better infrastructure in the Western Cape and we do know that the bulk of fruits and citrus that is produced from the Eastern Cape, find their way to the Western Cape either in the pack house or exported to the world through the ports of Cape Town.
So, it is two provinces that are offering each other different things. It is important that we all collaborate and make a conducive environment for our farmers from all angles.
Did your trip to the Western Cape achieve the desired goals for your department?
From the similarities we spoke about, the goal is to [explore] how we as a government put together a programme, not only in terms of logistics but also looking at the funding and financial support for our farmers, and assisting them in breaking into the market.
It is important to have those partnerships going. We know that the government purse does not run deep, so it is important that institutions that are able to come in and invest, do so with the key intention of growing and developing the sector.
Our interest is to assist the farmers, it does not matter whether that farmer is from the Eastern or Western Cape, we want to see farmers growing while creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
Are there practical steps in place to ensure access to funding for deciduous fruit farming?
We have had an engagement with Hortfin to look at their programme on how they best fund small-scale farmers and how best to assist farmers to be commercial. So that is the step we are looking at.
Our interest is assisting the farmer to make it in the market and we are also responsible to produce food for the nation, so we must roll up our sleeves and see what is possible.
And what about access to markets?
Access to markets can be looked at from a logistical point of view. For example, the Port of East London is the only port in South Africa that can export live animals.
So, we have trade agreements with countries in the Arab region for livestock such as goats and sheep. So, we are saying let us look at each other’s strengths and explore opportunities.
For farmers who are in the Western Cape and looking to export their live animals to the world, that port of trade is available for them to explore such opportunities.
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