R78.9m disbursed to citrus growers under the economic transformation programme

25th July 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Over the past three years, more than R161.3-million in funding has been approved under the Economic Transformation of Black Citrus Growers (ETBCG) Programme and R78.9-million disbursed to support black grower citrus operations, creating 78 permanent and 625 seasonal jobs in total, as well as enabling 208 ha of new trees to be planted.

Industry organisation the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) in 2019 launched the R307-million ETBCG Programme in partnership with the Jobs Fund, the Land Bank, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, AgriSETA, the LIMA Rural Development Foundation and FNB, said CGA CEO Justin Chadwick.

To qualify for funding, growers have to have a minimum of 60% black ownership of both assets and operations as defined by the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, while priority has also been given to enterprises with 100% black ownership.

Applicants also needed to demonstrate that they would create permanent and seasonal job opportunities with the development funding, he noted.

While the ETBCG Programme was launched in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic impacted its roll-out, as well as a number of new challenges faced by the local citrus industry over the past three years, which has threatened the sustainability and profitability of farming operations. These include a major hike in farming input costs and freight rates as well as loadshedding and operational issues at ports.

“Despite these challenges, we are pleased that the programme has disbursed R78.9-million to eight successful black farming operations across the country, with these funds being used towards access roads, land preparation, irrigation infrastructure, farm equipment, vehicles, fencing, packhouse equipment, a de-greening room, generators, a solar system and a substation,” he said.

Sikhula Sonke Enterprises, near Addo in the Eastern Cape, farmer Buyiswa Ndyenga said the programme helped considerably on the company's five farms.

“The money came at the right time. The price of everything went up and citrus farmers were struggling. But the ETBCG Programme's money helped us plant new orchards and erect a 9 km fence to stop the stealing of fruit,” she said.

Luthando Farms, near Kirkwood in the Eastern Cape, was also a beneficiary of the programme and Luthando Farms farmer Nonkwanele Mzamo said a lot of work still lies ahead.

“I am passionate about creating jobs. Because of the fund, it is easier to create jobs, and that feels good. Now we need to sustain these jobs.”

The CGA is extremely proud to be part of this ground-breaking programme, which has not only provided a major leg-up for black growers, who usually struggle to obtain loan funding and financial assistance but has also focused on transferring skills to these farmers as well as creating new jobs in surrounding communities, said Chadwick.

Additionally, the local industry has predicted that citrus exports could grow to 260-million 15 kg cartons a year by 2032, if all role-players work together. With transformation of the industry a key priority over the next ten years, a target for black citrus growers’ contribution towards the overall 260-million cartons a year has been set at 50-million cartons a year.

“We believe the ETBCG Programme will contribute towards achieving this goal by assisting and supporting growers to expand their operations and export their produce to key markets across the world.

“The deployment of funds under the programme is expected to continue until March 2024, which will be followed by a monitoring period that will take place for another two years,” he said.

Further, the funding structure of the ETBCG Programme is unique. Beneficiaries have received 36% of their funding as a pure grant, which has helped reduce their debt levels and assisted them in being able to make repayments. The remaining 64% has been structured as a blended loan at lower than prime interest rates.

“Another major focus area of the programme has been skills development of beneficiaries to make beneficiaries self-reliant, as well as training in surrounding communities so they can be employed by these farming operations,” said Chadwick.

“We look forward to the ETBCG Programme continuing to support the increased participation of black citrus growers in the industry and in this way, contribute towards meaningful and sustainable transformation within the agricultural sector.”

The ETBCG Programme was launched after the CGA applied to the Jobs Fund for a project that would make funding and technical support available to black citrus growers for orchard establishment, expansion and rehabilitation, as well as on-farm development of various infrastructure including packhouses, bulk-water supply and irrigation systems.

The Jobs Fund committed R118-million to the project, with the Land Bank agreeing to contribute an additional R116-million in loan funding. The CGA contributed R24-million, while the Department of Agriculture pledged R34-million and AgriSETA pledged R12-million.

The LIMA Rural Development Foundation was engaged as project manager and FNB was appointed the commercial-funding partner following a tender process.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online




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