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Dutoit Group family business celebrates 130 years of fresh produce

7th December 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Agricultural investment company Dutoit Group is celebrating its 130th anniversary. The group was started in 1893 by Gysbertus du Toit planting the first fruit trees on Kromfontein Farm, in the Western Cape, and has become one of the largest family-owned fresh produce businesses in South Africa.

The company is a producer and distributor of fruits and vegetables and includes the Du Toit Family empowerment initiative and Dutoit Group, which includes Dutoit Agri, Newtrend Farms, which focuses on joint ventures with existing successful farmers, Dutoit Invest, Dutoit International and Libland.

The Koue Bokkeveld, 200 km north of Cape Town and literally translated as Cold Buck Shrubland, has winters so harsh that the original settlers had to be paid special subsidies to settle in the area. However, with its fertile ground and fresh mountain water, Dutoit’s original stronghold has become synonymous with quality South African produce for local and international consumption.

The company currently has almost 5 000 ha of fruit and vegetables under irrigation in the lower altitude Warm Bokkeveld, the Berg River and Sandveld regions, as well as in the Langkloof in the Eastern Cape, in addition to the original, higher altitude Koue Bokkeveld region.

Traditional and new varieties of apples and pears make up the bulk of its produce, along with stone fruit which includes nectarines, plums, peaches and cherries. Dutoit packs 140 000 t of fruit and 78 000 t of vegetables a year.

Further, Dutoit Vegetables incorporates six farms, specialising in onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Each year, the business produces 50 000 t of onions, 20 000 t of potatoes, 8 000 t of sweet potatoes, as well as shallots, pumpkins and fresh garlic.

“We prioritise customer satisfaction as well as business and green integration. While there has been significant innovation and transformation in agriculture over the last 130 years, what has remained resolute is our mission to produce, pack, market and distribute quality fresh produce for our clients and customers,” says Dutoit Agri COO Willem Coetzee.

The Dutoit Group is an international brand with well-established and profitable alliances and capital investments globally. This complements its current activities and constitutes important platforms and partnerships for future expansion in terms of market access, product development and new technology.

Additionally, green integration and caring for the environment have become a key focus for Dutoit over the past few decades, it says.

Commitment to implementing innovative sustainable solutions, management of biodiversity, responsible use of natural resources, and minimising and responsible handling of waste are key to its operations, the company says.

"Operations within the Dutoit Group focus heavily on the long-term sustainable use of water, with the organisation having implemented infrastructural changes and the use of short-radius micro-sprinklers or drippers to use water effectively and with as little waste and evaporation as possible.

"The health of the soil and maintaining a healthy soil ecosystem is also integral to our sustainable agricultural model," the company says.

Meanwhile, in an effort to decrease food waste, Dutoit and fruit marketing organisation Good Hope Fruit partnered with retailer Pick n Pay and launched the Hail to Heroes campaign this year, which promotes the merits of cosmetically blemished produce.

"With hail hitting the apple orchards multiple times affecting all apple varieties over the past twelve months, most notably in November 2022 and again in February this year, this campaign educates consumers that the inside of the apple is unaffected, even if there is a blemish or slight bruising on the skin," Dutoit highlights.

Hail to Heroes also creates jobs along the supply chain, positively impacts the economy and uplifts the local communities, it adds.

In South Africa, Dutoit Invest strives to unlock various opportunities in the secondary agricultural sector, specifically when it comes to the processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables, to improve productivity, profitability and sustainable production systems, the company says.

The company also owes its ongoing success to its passion for its people and producers. During peak harvesting season, Dutoit employs more than 8 000 workers, and is committed to the recruitment, training and development of the people who work on its farms and the surrounding communities.

“As a leading farming, packing, marketing and distribution enterprise, we recognise that our employees underpin the core of the business, and that it is our social responsibility to empower and support the people in the communities we operate in,” Coetzee says.

For decades, Dutoit has developed productive partnerships with leading experts in the field of social development in order to significantly improve the wellbeing of communities, to create a feeling of inclusiveness and to motivate employees to take part in the development of their communities.

"Youth education, healthcare, social development, sport and recreation are some of the pillars of the socioeconomic development initiatives run by Dutoit. This includes maintenance of the primary schools located on the estates and study schemes, loans and bursaries to enable children of employees to progress into tertiary education.

"Further, a health plan sees qualified nurses, trained healthcare workers and fully equipped clinics provide services every week at the various farms and pack houses," it says.

“We are proud of the legacy that Dutoit has established over the last 130 years, which is a testament to our commitment, resilience and dedication to excellence. We want to pay tribute to every person who has played a role in our success, most importantly our employees who nurture our produce and handle it with the care it needs to ensure that the best quality products reach our customers,” says Coetzee.

Further, family heritage and value remain at the heart of the company, with fourth and fifth generations of Dutoit family members engaged in day-to-day operations. Henrie du Toit will take over as CEO from Pieter du Toit in the coming months.

At the group’s 130th birthday and staff appreciation event, 65 staff members received long-service awards, including Gys du Toit senior, who celebrated 50 years at the company.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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