Transformation of fruit exports lagging

Concerns about black farmers’ lack of access to export markets are still raging as transformation of the industry remains slow.

Concerns about black farmers’ lack of access to export markets are still raging as transformation of the industry remains slow.

Delegates at the allFresh! conference recently held at Sun City expressed concern over the small number of black and emerging farmers in the export market and said that administration is the biggest barrier to entry.

Dawie Scholtz, a researcher at ExperiCo research company, said that funding to assist black farmers in getting involved in the export market often arrives late and farmers miss deadlines. “There is also a great need for technical assistance for farmers to get their produce ready for the export market.”

He added that goodwill and a lot of research to assist farmers is not enough. “Every couple of months a new person arrives on the farm to assist the farmer but then leaves after a while because bureaucracy ensures that nothing happens.” Louis von Broembsen, managing consultant for Fruit Strategies International, agreed that technical assistance was lacking for emerging farmers.

“These farmers need independent advice, not coming from people who will score out of the advice they are giving. If this is sorted, then the industry will go far in ensuring the export readiness of emerging farmers.” Von Broembsen added that the low quality of produce is also keeping emerging farmers out of the export market. “Farmers compete in a highly competitive market so the quality of the produce needs to be high. The export market won’t do special favours for black fruit farmers.”

Lionel Martin, a fruit farmer in Villiers, said that the biggest issues for him in exporting produce were registration through the South African Revenue Service and late payments from buyers. “The red tape involved is very daunting and you have to register to be an exporter and an importer in case your fruit gets sent back.

“Most emerging farmers are previous orchard labourers and so know nothing about the process of exporting. This lack of exposure makes it difficult for them to navigate through the red tape,” said Martin. – Lindi van Rooyen