By next month the establishment of a first phase of 98,000 blueberry plants on land provided by a mining company will be completed, and by next year the first crop of approximately 300 tonnes will be ready for export.
South African mining company Pan African Resources, the owner of Barberton Mines, contracted Primocane Capital which is already running blueberry operations in the Western Cape, to set up a 15-hectare blueberry farm near its gold operations in Barberton, Mpumalanga Province, an area with high agricultural potential.
The investment by Pan African is intended to create jobs and contribute to long-term prosperity by empowering the local communities through skills development and training, the company says.
“We have been really happy to partner up with Pan African Resources. I don't think there has been anything of this scale before, I haven't seen agri organisations going right to the coalface. It's a trendsetter for where such collaborations can go,” says Derek Stanford, CEO of Primocane Capital.
Blueberry orchard near the Fairview mine in Barberton (photos supplied by Primocane Capital)
The blueberries will be packed into the BerryWorld brand. “We've been with BerryWorld for a couple of years now, and we like their model with good grower support and good marketing,” Derek says. “We really enjoy working with them.”
The mining company has said that it is planned that the blueberry project in its eventual extent of an additional 50 hectares will employ up to 800 people (most of them seasonally) where until now, it notes, most of the local community members not employed by the mine depend on social grants and informal jobs for survival.
Aerial view of the covered blueberry orchards in the ancient Barberton landscape
“We are acutely aware that a mine cannot employ everyone in its surrounding communities and wanted to create a parallel economy that not only provides additional employment, but that builds other sustainable economic opportunities for the town long after the life of Barberton Mines has passed,” says Cobus Loots, CEO at Pan African Resources.
He adds that at this early stage of the project, they have already begun to see the benefits in the wellbeing of the communities around the farm.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy was recently hosted at the blueberry farm which is situated a few kilometers from Barberton Mines' Fairview gold mine.
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