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Craig McBain - CEO Halls

"We wanted to be part of the solution”"

As Halls continues to expand its footprint across the globe, the Company’s links to its South African roots and the DNA of its forefathers remains strong. “It’s where we draw our pioneering spirit from, as well as our firm commitment to farming,” says Craig McBain, Halls CEO. In South Africa alone, Halls is responsible for over 7,000ha of owned and leased agricultural land, with 1,200ha of irrigated orchards under management.

“Halls is a fully, vertically integrated, fresh produce business, involved in the farming, sourcing, packing, marketing and distribution of a range of sub-tropical products, with our main focus on avocados,” says McBain. Halls finds itself really strongly positioned to contribute to the global growth of avocado consumption. In Europe, the company has operations in four locations, in Kent (United Kingdom), Paris (Rungis market), Marseilles and Rotterdam. These operations supply most of the major retailers, wholesalers and food service businesses across the continent.

Fundamental to Halls’ approach has been its ongoing commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Halls didn’t wait for the introduction of the amended land laws after the new dispensation in 1994 to open negotiations with the new South African government. “It was clear to us that for South Africa to make progress and move on, land had to move from white ownership to black ownership. As a company with various land holdings we wanted to be part of the solution” says McBain. Engaging with the Department of Land Affairs, Halls concluded the largest settlement deal of the time, where 6 000ha was sold to the government and subsequently transferred to the Matsafeni Trust. It was one of the first successful land claim projects between the government and the private sector.

Still today, Halls plays a vital role in providing the Matsafeni Mdluli Farms with essential farming services, mentoring and financial assistance. Fifteen years on, the farm continues to run profitably and is held out as an example of a sustainably successful land restitution project in South Africa. McBain adds: “The partnership developed over many years, between the Matsafeni Trust and Halls, is an example that we can hopefully take into the future for a better South Africa for all”.

“The farm remains under production,” says Terry Mdluli, CEO of the Matsafeni Mdluli Farms. “When we took over we were new to farming and therefore understood that we needed Halls as a partner to keep the farms producing. We are both in business – we have rigorous debates and talk things through – we know that ultimately both parties are benefiting from the close partnership that we share.”

Halls is a company built on authentic human values and partnerships that are embedded in its rich 127-year history. The Company donated 150ha of land to provide formal housing ownership opportunities for 440 of its current and former employees and was recognised by the Department of Human Settlements (through the Govan Mbeki Awards). The Company rehabilitated the wetlands when it developed part of Nelspruit, also donating land to the National Botanical Society to enlarge the Lowveld botanical gardens and to ensure the natural preservation of the cascades and gorge on the Crocodile River.

“The future looks extraordinarily bright and our commitment to serving our community remains ever-strong,” concludes McBain. “The world of avocados is growing and we want to grow with it. Our soul is always going to remain in the soil, and that will include investing further in agriculture, not just in South Africa, but in other parts of the world.”

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