Newly appointed chairperson of Fruit SA, Anton Kruger:

'South African fruit industry has a “can do” attitude'

The South African fruit industry has a “can do” attitude, says the newly appointed chairperson of Fruit SA, Anton Kruger. In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Kruger talks about how the fruit industry is dealing with the geopolitical changes and challenges on South African soil. He also shares areas of focus for him as the new chair and has a strong message to farmers in the fruit industry.

What measures are in place to deal with challenges threatening the fruit industry in Mzansi?

Kruger: The geopolitical and regulatory environments do present challenges for the industry, but the South African fruit industry has a “can do” attitude and runs towards a problem and not away from it.

We always try to find solutions with regard to the matters raised. The industry cannot find a solution on its own, we need to collaborate with the government. Exporters always need to consider the risk versus the reward when taking marketing decisions, however, the relationship between the exporter and importer also plays a significant role as the fruit industry is in essence a people-centred industry where relationships are important.

What immediate measures need to be taken?

In the fruit industry, of which 60% of fresh fruit is produced is also exported, temperature and time are crucial factors in maintaining the quality of the fruit. We need South African ports that are efficient to ensure that these two important factors are not compromised, because if it’s not the case, it does have a negative impact on the image and reputation of the SA fruit industry and profitability.

However, engagements with Transnet on the ports as well as efforts to move more fruits on rail than on the road, are crucial elements that need urgent attention.

Transformation is another focus area and Fruit SA and its member organisations have dedicated staff members whose role is to develop and implement various industry-specific initiatives.

Where do you see SA fruit in five years and what’s the role of public-private partnership?

We believe in partnerships and thus welcome the government’s private sector participation model. Another pressing issue is access to new markets as forecasts show an increase in production of at least 15% by 2030. The current international markets are not able to absorb these additional volumes and thus we are focusing on especially the Far East and East Asia.

This is unfortunately a protracted process, and the industry is not able to negotiate access with other governments. This must be done by the department of agriculture, and we do partner with the department in trying to expedite the process.

Now that you are board chair, what will be your focus area?

As the chairperson the most important role is to ensure that the board exercises its oversight responsibility as well as developing the strategic focus of Fruit SA. In developing the strategic focus, it is crucial to do it in conjunction with Fruit SA chief executive officer, Fhumulani Ratshitanga, as she is responsible for implementing it.

The board’s role is also to support the Fruit SA CEO. I have been the vice chairperson for the past three years and will thus continue with the tasks I have been involved in as they are still very relevant and need continuous attention.


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