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African Table Grape Industry committed to transformation

The Chairperson of SA Tablegrapes (the representative body for the Table Grape growers of South Africa), Mr Johan van Niekerk, and the Chairpersons of it’s representative associations in the regions; Mr Chris Moolman Northern Table Grape Association; Mr Piet du Plessis, Orange River Producer Association; Mr Nico Greeff, Olifants River Association; Ms Eurica Scholtz, Berg River Table Grape Association and Mr Michael Laubscher , Hex River Table Grape Association, and their members fully commit themselves to continued transformation of the industry and to compliance with the South African labour legislation. The progress made by the table grape and fruit sector to ensure independent ethical accreditation under the South African Sustainability Initiative (SIZA) platform is regarded as a sound basis for further development and continuous improvement in this sphere. According to independent audits under the SIZA process, the industry is on the right track in terms of progress towards improving the lives of many of its employees.

Annually the industry, through its operational arm SATI (South African Table Grape Industry) spends 20% of producer funded income of R22m to support the development of emerging growers with various programs from vine planting schemes, mentor support, needs based training, visits to new markets and visits to successful enterprises. The industry has developed standard accredited training materials for all levels of workers, to promote increased skills levels and mobility of individuals employed on farms. Producers funding has also recently supported the improvement of education methods in crèches for children of farm workers, refurbishment of clinics for communities who make their home on and around our farms and has also provided literacy training to adult workers and youth alike. Bursaries are made available to nurture young talent in the industry while sophisticated consumer education is carried out in international markets to ensure that consumers learn about emerging producers and worker shareholders as viable sources of supply. In addition, over the past 4 years, the industry association has assisted in attracting nearly R 100 million in funding for transformation based initiatives from the government and from abroad.

The details and effectiveness of these initiatives are monitored and verified by government’s National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) on an annual basis.
It is through this program that the Table Grape industry has contributed to the development of the Ethical trade platform SIZA. SIZA has been funded as part of
a joint Fruit South Africa initiative. SIZA1 (Sustainability Initiative of SA) is an independent and transparent national platform through which producer compliance with all relevant laws governing good labour practices can be verified by independent auditors. SIZA is now widely recognised by all major international retailers as a verifiable source of facts and statistics relating to compliance with legislation, health and safety standards, as well as adherence to minimum wages. The SIZA platform also provides for assistance and proposed corrective actions through which producers can embark on a process of continuous improvement with regard to worker welfare, working and living conditions.

Currently, approximately 11% of the 14,000 ha of land under table grape production is in the hands of emerging farmers. Through a vine planting program table grape producers have supported the replacement of undesirable varieties and aging vines on land reform farms with more lucrative cultivars that the market demands. This program helps emerging producers to access markets that otherwise would be unavailable to them. In the Western Cape, in a joint venture program with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture an amount of nearly R 20 million has been spent on this initiative. Most participating enterprises have already seen improved profitability as a result of this initiative.

In recent years the industry has been under severe economic pressure as its traditional markets of the UK and European Union moved into deep recession. This has brought the future sustainability of the industry under the spotlight and both the industry and government have expressed their concerns for the future of employment and employment creation. SAT believes that through the successes and lessons learnt under the initiatives referred to above, the industry is in a position to make sound decisions and have sustainable development as it seeks to maintain its position as a premium source of some of the best tasting table grapes in the world.
The board of SAT together with the boards of its regional organizations discourages and condemns any unfair labour practices that are outside the laws of our country and the international ethical standards under which we operate. With the new season at hand, interference of entities with ulterior motives, that do not have farmworker interests at heart, are not welcome in our industry, especially during this time when the table grape industry, its growers and farmworkers continue to strive towards sustainable harmony in the workplace.

For more information:
Rhomona Gounden
South African Table Grape Industry
Tel: 0027 21 863 0366

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