The Western Cape fruit industry contributes to rural development and transformation by creating in excess of 27 000 direct, on-farm jobs and a further 109 000 dependents who are impacted by the success of the industry. This, not to mention food security, is now at risk if the fruit industry is not able to successfully pick and chill fruit during the picking period from now until the end of April. “The next six to eight weeks are critical for the fruit industry,” says Francois Malan, Managing Director of Ceres Fruit Growers.
His counterpart, in the greater Grabouw, Villiersdorp and Vyeboom areas is Attie van Zyl, the Managing Director of the Two-a-Day Group who concurs. Both companies own Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest exporter of South African apples and pears. Tru-Cape Managing Director Roelf Pienaar says that the industry is already facing tough obstacles in terms of the impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy, reduced market access and tariffs so news that load-shedding which will impact the ability to chill and maintain the cold chain required to have apples and pears available for 12 months of the year, is worrying. “While there are a few gold nuggets in the budget speech which will be good for agriculture what we need right now is the assurance by government and Eskom that the power will stay on through to the end of April in our production areas,” Pienaar says. Malan adds that the mining sector has successfully lobbied government and Eskom to keep their power from being shut off and now it is Western Cape agriculture’s chance. “We are happy to accept load-shedding during the winter months which is, after all, Eskom’s peak-demand period but now, and for the next weeks, there is a lot at stake if we have interrupted power.”
Anton Rabe, Hortgro’s Executive Director says “We are entering our peak season and any disruption to packing and cooling of product that could be prevented would assist the industry to optimise pack-outs, prevent job losses and maximise foreign earnings.”