Summer Citrus remembers Gerrit van der Merwe Sr.

Entering the new year with heavy hearts, Summer Citrus from South Africa (SCSA) honors the legacy of its founder and a well-respected South African citrus grower, Gerrit van der Merwe Sr., who passed away suddenly on December 19.

In 1999, shortly after South African citrus growers started exporting limited volumes to the US, van der Merwe strongly advocated for a “model of collaboration” with growers. While not everyone felt this was ideal, given the recent deregulation of fruit in South Africa, Gerrit proceeded with passion, knowing that there was more in store for the collective efforts of South African growers and US importers. He soon became well-known in the US, and as business grew, so did a collaborative approach between growers and importers. He was determined that serving the world’s demanding market required growers to work together – and he was right.

What started with very informal conversations about collectively seeking economies of scale soon evolved into long-term logistical agreements between South Africa and the US. Gerrit was a strong advocate of a commitment to both supply and demand, which is still SCSA’s business model today. Additionally, van der Merwe was instrumental in evolving the brand, based on his belief that retailers should know why SCSA is truly the world’s finest summer citrus available.

“We’re saddened to lose a mentor and friend but know that Gerrit’s legacy will continue to live on for South African citrus growers,” said Suhanra Conradie, CEO of Summer Citrus from South Africa. “We have gained a lot of momentum with Gerrit’s initiative for our collaborative approach and intend to keep it going.”

During the 2016 SCSA annual planning session, van der Merwe quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying “those who labored in the earth were the chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people.” His deep respect for fellow growers is one of the many reasons he will be missed.

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