Unlocking the potential of truffles

South African company Woodford Truffles has obtained licensed production technology from the UK-based Mychorrhizal Systems which, it claims, will allow farmers to establish viable black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) orchards.
Issue date : 27 June 2008

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South African company Woodford Truffles has obtained licensed production technology from the UK-based Mychorrhizal Systems which, it claims, will allow farmers to establish viable black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) orchards. Volker Miros managing director of Woodford SA, said growers entering the programme need to invest around R85 000/ha but truffles can generate R500 000/ha to R1 million/ha, depending on the quality and size of the yield.

Farmers will receive 400 to 500 inoculated trees and continuous production assistance for at least 10 years. can be harvested four to seven years after the trees are established, depending on conditions such as soil, irrigation and climate, but maximum productivity is only reached at about 10 years. said areas that are good for apple production would also be suitable for truffle production. – Glenneis Erasmus Call (021) 791 3953 or visit www.woodfordtruffles.co.za.

Inputs erode canning profits

roducing fruit for canning is starting to look profitable again due to the weakening of the rand against major currencies and the 10% to 14% improvement in market prices on last year. But farmers are still not out of the woods. At a recent meeting in Worcester Wiehahn Victor, general manager of the Canning Fruit Producer’s Association (CFPA), said that rising input costs will still be felt. “Next year will be extremely challenging and farmers will be forced to find ways to remain sustainable,” said Victor. Farmers also need support from government, who must negotiate better trade agreements with importing countries.

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“The Chilean government not only supports their farmers through subsidies, they also take an active part in negotiating good trade agreements with major countries such as China and Europe,” said Victor. “South Africa needs to do the same.” So far the SA government has negotiated a better trade agreement with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, which include non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Luxembourg. These negotiations have resulted in savings of between R2 million to R6 million due to reduced tariffs.

Negotiations are unfortunately still at a deadlock with the EU, as government wasn’t satisfied with the proposed contract towards the end of last year. Victor said these negotiations will soon begin again and if they’re successful SA stands to save between R70 billion and R80 billion in reduced tariffs. SA also needs to take more active advantage of the growing puree market, which Victor pointed out had grown 32% to 12 billion litres over the past year, and by 61% to 8 billion litres in the Eastern Bloc Countries. “South Africa would be able to double its cling-peach production, for pulp and puree to Eastern Bloc countries, and there would still be room for growth in that market,” he added.

He pointed out that Greece had already increased its peach pulp production from 56 000t to 120 000t to increase its market share in Eastern Bloc Countries. And there is still a lot of room for South African fruit. Victor added that the rand’s weakness against major currencies such as the dollar and euro also gave South Africa a competitive advantage over Greece. “Production in Greece has become increasingly pressurised, as subsidies have been reduced there since their currency changed from the drachma to the euro,” he explained. – Glenneis Erasmus

German milk plan won’t help local farmers

Having just won a stand-off between producers and retailers for better producer prices, Dr Thomas Grupp of the German Federal Dairy Farmers’ Association (BDM) proposed that Western Cape producers stop feeding their animals power feed for several months, to counter the lower producer prices currently offered in the province. H e said this would lower production, pressure retailers to pay farmers more, and send a strong message to feed companies about exorbitant feed prices. But Dean Kleynhans, Western Cape MPO chairperson said the situation in Germany differs from the one in South Africa.

In milk buyers and retailers are faced with an over-production of dairy. SA there’s a small surplus because consumers are unable to afford produce they normally buy due to interest rate hikes, fuel and food price escalations. Kleynhans said that withholding power feed would drastically drop production volumes, without affecting the price. It would also be detrimental to general animal conditioning, resulting in lower quality dairy, eventually affecting the fertility of the herd. “And in the southern Cape there’s no natural pasture because of the dry conditions.

Without pasture what should the cows eat?” asked Kleynhans. “It would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Withholding power feed would send the correct message to the feed companies, but this isn’t a long-term solution. Kleynhans advised farmers to rather slaughter the weakest 10% of their herd, which would bring about a drop in production, improve the overall genetics of the herd, and realise savings as less feed would be needed. – Wouter Kriel