Three new agriculture development projects worth more than R800 million are set to generate jobs and promote food security, even as the local and international economy is devastated by the covid-19 pandemic.
One of the new projects, jointly funded by The Jobs Fund and a variety of private sector partners, is set to transform the local blueberry industry by including previously disadvantaged farm workers in the mainstream blueberry market.
The coronavirus has exacerbated the unemployment crisis in the country, says the deputy director general of employment facilitation for the Jobs Fund, Najwah Allie-Edries. It is therefore imperative that the focus is shifted towards initiatives that will benefit emerging farmers and work seekers.
The Jobs Fund is a R9 billion fund established by government to facilitate sustainable employment amongst previously disadvantaged South Africans, youth and women. It allocates money to projects, with private sector partners contributing at least one rand for every rand allocated.
Three new agricultural projects have been awarded funding and have begun implementing development initiatives that will benefit the previously disadvantaged across all nice provinces.
On top of the R359 million Jobs Fund investment, these projects have attracted a further R494 million from private sector partners, taking the funding available for investment in agriculture to R853 million.
Inclusivity in the international blueberry industry
A partnership with Atlantic Black (Pty) Ltd aims to transform the local blueberry industry by including previously disadvantaged farm workers in the mainstream blueberry market.
In partnership with ABSA, Topfruit, Southern Cross Marketing and Management and Haygrove, the Atlantic Black project will leverage matched funding of almost R184 million off a R49 million Jobs Fund grant.
Atlantic Black (Pty) Ltd, which was previously Dundi Lodge, has expanded into agriculture by changing its business operations to focus on blueberry farming in the Western Cape.
The funds will be used to “establish a 50-hectare blueberry orchard in the Western Cape, part-owned and 100% operated by previously disadvantaged South Africans. The blueberry operation will target the annual gap in the European berry market from October to February,” says Allie-Edries.
The project will extend training, management and global export. It will offer marketing expertise to previously disadvantaged local workers, most of which are women.
The project is expected to create 852 jobs, consisting of 70 permanent jobs, 570 seasonal and 212 short term jobs, and is supported by an employee equity scheme.
Increasing market accessibility
Working with the Land Bank and the National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC) the second project will train 7,812 project beneficiaries and create 5,483 jobs, consisting of 1,715 permanent, 3,720 seasonal, and 48 short term jobs countrywide. The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has leveraged R600 m to develop potential emerging agricultural businesses into commercial enterprises.
All beneficiaries will need to demonstrate that they have contributed their own funds to the business or derive 80% of their personal income from operations. Candidates will also be required to demonstrate significant non-financial contributions to the business, through full-time involvement, land ownership, water rights or recognised agricultural qualifications or other relevant skills, says Allie-Edries.
All beneficiaries are expected to create further employment as their enterprises grow, broadening the ecosystem of inclusion amongst rural communities in South Africa. Allie-Edries says the initiative is a pioneering partnership that will capacitate emerging commercial farmers and marginalised agro-processing SMEs. This is by “helping them invest in production inputs and infrastructure, coordinate technical support, and build successful businesses able to access markets.”
Building agriculture sustainability
The Jobs Fund will also foster an additional partnership with the Pick n Pay Foundation and South African Breweries (SAB Foundation) in supporting five emerging inland farming operations to become commercial agricultural enterprises with funding to the sum of R20 million.
All five enterprises will be assisted to register their businesses, develop their products and services, set up bookkeeping and cash flow management systems, comply with packaging and labelling legislation, provide product traceability, and meet food safety audit requirements.
Thereafter they will be “registered on the Pick n Pay portal, enabling them to access the logistics required to place their products on Pick n Pay shelves,” says Allie-Edries.
In addition, Pick n Pay will also provide the five beneficiaries with favourable rebates, preferential trading terms, a dedicated mentor, financial training, access to corporate experts, networking support, and firm off-take agreements with the supermarket chain.
“The off-take agreements will enable beneficiaries to leverage further funding from commercial banks, the Industrial Development Corporation or the National Empowerment Fund, using these agreements as collateral,” says Allie-Edries.
Beyond assisting five previously disadvantaged and marginalised emerging farmers to access mainstream agricultural and retail supply chains, “this partnership will create a total of 171 jobs, consisting of 53 permanent, 104 seasonal, and 14 short term jobs, while also training 50 beneficiaries”.