Sundays River’s citrus farmers losing millions

Sundays River’s citrus farmers are still suffering millions of rand in losses (R12 000/t) per year due to vandalism and fruit theft.

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Hannes De Waal, CEO of the Sundays River Citrus Co-operative (SRCC), said that this is despite increased police action. The region’s producers had been battling this problem for three years without success.

“Orchards are damaged in the process as transgressors wait until nightfall before they start picking. It is believed that a syndicate is involved. Valuable fruit, some not even ripe, are stripped from the trees. Many orchards are damaged [in the process]. The fruit, mainly [of] export quality, are apparently carted away during the night by trucks and bakkies, [and] then sold to consumers,” De Waal said.

He added that the SRCC was satisfied that police had increased their efforts to combat the vandalism and theft, but said that the organisation was disappointed that transgressors were freed after appearing in court. “We have therefore asked for a meeting with the police, but a date still has to be set,” he said.

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De Waal said the SRCC had recently met with producers to discuss how to end the crimes. “Producers complained that their biggest problem is that, despite several complaints [made to] police, there seems to be no progress.”

Ken Nieuwenhuizen, Director of Transformation and Development at the SRCC, said that while the vandalism and theft had not yet affected its BEE farm, Siyaphambile, the SRCC would have to eventually employ full-time security and upgrade the farm’s fence.

“We are not yet harvesting on Siyaphambile, but we have a security officer looking after the house and other buildings. Any farm’s income would be affected by theft and it is therefore important that the farm be managed properly,” said Nieuwenhuizen.