Heroes of transformation took centre stage at the Deciduous Fruit Industry Transformation Awards last night. Stakeholders also looked each other in the eye and acknowledged that still too few black farmers are enjoying the fruits of the R14 billion-a-year industry.
South Africa’s national minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, was the keynote speaker at the glitzy event. It was hosted in Stellenbosch by the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber South Africa to honour individuals and companies who have played an important transformation role in the past 28 years.
Didiza congratulated the stars of the night, but her biggest plea was for collaboration to remove remaining barriers to entry for small and medium farmers. “It is time that we pause and celebrate the heroines and heroes of our sector. We salute you.
“[But these] barriers, together with skills development challenges and market infrastructure, slow the transformation and participation of black producers in the industry,” she said, referring to the establishment costs of a fruit farm, including expensive land, planting material and resources to comply to market standards.
Acknowledging the industry’s successes, Didiza said that government will play its part in further collaborative efforts to support black deciduous farmers. She urged industry role-players to do the same.
‘We are ready to transform’
In an inspiring message, Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber chairperson Ismail Motala said that the organisation has drafted a 2050 vision strategy which will see stakeholders on all levels included in the drive to transform the industry.
“We are geared for expansion. It is our wish to see more provinces having deciduous fruit farmers. Importantly, we need to move together in our vision to realise a transformed industry.”
He echoed Didiza’s call for collaboration and asked government to create an enabling environment for farmers to develop and to do business. “We are willing to work with government to increase the footprint of this industry and to increase the market for our farmers.
“The value chain needs a lot of work in terms of transformation but I can tell you, the industry and other role players are up for it. We are ready to transform.”
Transformation complex but critical
African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) chairperson Neo Masithela highlighted that black people account for only 10% of the industry with a R14 billion annual turnover. Yet, all role players have a critical part to play in agriculture as a pillar of the South African economy. “Working together will enable us to achieve a transformed sector. We should not work against each other or even point fingers at each other.”
Hortgro chairperson Nic Dicey said that the challenging topic of transformation, and the correct models to follow, had long been debated. “Throw in the mix of food security, land claims, generational family ownership, volatility and the long-term nature of the agricultural industry, and a simple answer… is not as clear-cut.”
He added that impactful, meaningful and sustainable transformation will only be possible if successes are duplicated, mistakes inspire learning, and generational succession is in place.
All hands to be on deck
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Ceres farmer and honouree Raymond Koopstad highlighted a need for farmers from other provinces to enter the deciduous fruit industry but was pleased that work was indeed underway to bring about transformation.
He received a Value Chain Breaker of the Year award and dedicated it to everyone working towards transformation in the sector. “I think the industry is on the right track but more needs to be done. It is a multi-billion industry that needs everyone to be involved.
“Having only 10% of the industry transformed cannot be correct. We all know that agriculture is the key driver to alleviate poverty and to create jobs.”
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