Transformation is a strategic pillar of Fruit South Africa, alongside market access, strengthened relations with government, and information management and communication.

Fruit South Africa is a non-profit company and an umbrella body for these fresh fruit associations in SA: Berries ZA, the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA), the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF), HORTGRO (representing the pome- and stone-fruit growers), the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) and Subtrop (representing the avocado, litchi, and mango growers).

A large portion of the South African population still resides in rural areas. Therefore, when considering the economy of the local agriculture sector, prioritising sustainable transformation just makes sense. It’s all about economic development that empowers emerging farmers sustainably, to advance to commercial status with relative profitability and far-reaching economic benefits.

But transformation efforts cannot be deemed sustainable or be taken seriously if they don’t result in economic development. Thus, Fruit SA and industry role-players initiated a showcase in February, inviting a delegation of government officials and stakeholders in agriculture to two farms in the Western Cape. They will witness first-hand the fruits of sustainable transformation initiatives. This serves as a notable motivation for the owners of these enterprises to continue their work. Importantly, it also reminds government of the critical importance of continued investment in transformation initiatives of this calibre, and that transformation is a process, not an event. Last year Fruit SA extended the same invitation to visit Batlhako Temo Farm in Brits.

The industry goal is to have a fully transformed sector by 2038 with Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) growers contributing 30% of fruit production, 30% of exports, and constituting 15% of ownership across the value chain. In 2021 the number of fruit farm hectares under black ownership increased from 24 435 to 32 521 in 2022, whilst the number of hectares under fruit production by black growers increased from 16 077 to 16 346 in 2022 (up 1.7%). As for production, a 55% increase was recorded in the volume of fruit produced by black growers, from 362 893 tonnes in 2021 to 563 384 in 2022. Black growers also achieved a 25% increase in exports, from 183 526 tonnes in 2021 to 229 439 in 2022.

A leading southern-hemisphere exporter, the fresh fruit industry of SA ships 60% of its fruit to more than 100 destinations around the world. This R62 billion export-oriented industry supplies nearly 325K on-farm jobs that sustain 1.2 million dependents. Against a backdrop of a 23% national unemployment rate, these are substantial numbers. Consistent investment and support from government are, therefore, crucial for the viability of the industry.

In SA sustainable transformation as a lever for significant economic growth remains largely untapped. But, working with government and other stakeholders, the industry hopes for many more showcases of transformation initiatives where the economic results speak for themselves.

For more information:
Fhumulani Ratshitanga
Fruit SA