Big businesses partner with KZN government

Major food and beverage companies Nestle© and SABMiller have entered into agribusiness partnerships with the KZN government, to develop small-scale farmers and displace imports with local produce.

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KZN premier Dr Zweli Mkhize announced the partnerships at the Africa investor Agribusiness Investment Summit attended by over 300 business and government leaders in Durban recently. “The KZN provincial government is serious about forming partnerships with the private sector,” he said.

“We want partners to use the agriculture sector as one of the main drivers of growth in KZN, as the number of jobs it creates on a rand investment basis is significant.” KZN’s present agricultural production could be expanded by 366% with the right investment, he added. Dr Mkhize said government had signed a deal with SAB to receive 5 000t of yellow maize seed, which will go to small-scale farmers in Bergville and Nkandla.

“There’s potential to grow there. Government will help them become commercial farmers and businessmen.”Meanwhile, Nestlé is engaging small-scale farmers in Weenen to grow chicory, which is used to make instant coffee. Nestlé began trials with 10 small-scale farmers there in 2008. “We import about 80% of our chicory needs from India,” said Nestlé SA’s Motshidisi Mokwena. “We plan to reduce imports each year. In five to six years, we hope to have 800ha to 1 000ha under chicory in South Africa. This will create serious job opportunities as chicory is labour-intensive.”

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Mokwena said one of the challenges was to convince farmers to move slightly away from maize. “They’re unfamiliar with chicory, but it’s more profitable for them. And they’ve successfully brought in their first harvest.”Mkhize said he was keen to see large tracts of land run by small-scale farmers. “With the right support, they can have stability.

This model means we can identify commercial farmers and pair them with small farmers. It must yield benefits for small-scale farmers, so they can understand what this new era in South Africa is about. “Our partners are getting the benefit of the commodity, they’re creating jobs and stability, and a community of people who look out for one another,” said Mkhize.