Massmart to launch Direct Farm Programme

With the Competition Commission having approved the Walmart-Massmart merger, the company plans to launch its Direct Farm Programme (DFP), which will be used to develop suppliers, in particular small and medium-sized black farmers.

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“We are working with 40 to 50 small-scale farmers and are looking for more. We aim to have 1 500 small-scale farmers in South Africa as soon as possible,” DFP head Kobus Pienaar told growers at the East Coast Intensive Horticulture symposium held at Cedara College of Agriculture recently.

Fresh produce will be a new pursuit for Massmart. Falling under the four-month-old MassFresh division, fresh produce will be sold at Makro, Game and Masscash Wholesale stores like Jumbo, Shield and Cambridge. “The DFP is not a public relations exercise. We are putting in serious work and everyone involved needs to pull their weight.”

During the next three years, Massmart will spend R60 million on agriculture and developing emerging farmers by way of mentorship and market access. “Memorandums of understanding and offtake agreements are entered into with farmers. We do not prescribe what crops they should grow and we don’t force growers to sell to us exclusively,” said Pienaar.

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Commercial farmers also play a key role, both as suppliers and as mentors to small- scale farmers.Massmart has partnered with TechnoServe to provide agronomic expertise to emerging farmers in Limpopo, where they are already producing tomatoes, butternuts, beans and peppers. Massmart prefers to cut out middlemen and farmers deliver directly to distribution centres. Pienaar said GlobalGAP certification was not mandatory since this would exclude too many farmers.

Lauren Shins, of Romac Farms (Ballito) said Massmart’s entrance into the fresh produce market was exciting. “It is encouraging that it wants to go direct to the farmers. Hopefully this will mean higher prices for farmers and lower prices for consumers.” Shins said Massmart’s willingness to put aside substantial funds for development, and its flexible approach to GlobalGAP certification was also encouraging.