On 19 August 2014 a group of 19 fruit farmers decided to launch a regional initiative for inclusive agricultural growth, job creation and improved social harmony in line with the National Development Plan. This was to become Partners in Agri Land Solutions (PALS).
Right from the start Hortgro was regarded as a very important strategic partner. As commodity organisation of the pome and stone fruit industry with good corporate structures, it was logical that Hortgro would be the most important commodity organisation with whom first Witzenberg Partnership and later PALS would consult and look to for advice.
PALS was aligned with the NDP, but the planning in terms of goals and district was done with reference to Hortgro’s published booklet. The 18 000 hectares of planted fruit trees in 2014 in the Witzenberg area as per Hortgro’s statistics, was an important figure to set certain goals in terms of the NDP principles. The value of, and investment in fruit orchards as per Hortgro’s well-kept statistics, were also used to explain to the ministers of Land Reform, Agriculture and Water Affairs that PALS do not regard inclusive agricultural growth as purely a numbers game.
Hortgro’s advice, guidance and support over the eight years that PALS has been in existence, is invaluable. From the chairman of the board, CEO, technical officials and especially Mariette Kotzé, there was always an understanding that Hortgro and PALS cooperate and do not compete. Although PALS is today a national organisation and caters for all commodities and types of agricultural enterprises, its roots are firmly within the fruit industry and the majority of PALS enterprises were established by farmers who also farm with some type of fruit.
When the presidency required a plan for the Western Cape regarding land reform, PALS, Hortgro and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture collaborated to present the plan. Hortgro gracefully supported PALS to draft and submit a land reform plan to the Deputy President to which presentation Hortgro’s Mariette Kotzé and the Department of Agriculture Western Cape’s former HOD Joyene Isaacs provided important inputs.
Similarly, PALS provided information and data from its list of potential enterprises and allowed Hortgro to use the job creation potential of the PALS project list when Hortgro took the lead to apply at the Jobs Fund as part of establishing the Hortfin fund.
“Hortgro is the custodian of the pome and stone fruit industry. For PALS it will always be important to regard Hortgro as an invaluable strategic partner. The positive interactions with Mariette Kotzé and her team assisted PALS to overcome several challenges. The appreciation from both organisations that we need to join hands and allow each entity to do what is in the best interest of the cause of inclusive economic growth, is very rare in South Africa. Going forward, we will be even stronger together, because we plan to work even smarter together,” comments Gerrit van Vuuren, strategic advisor of PALS.
“Since my first engagement with Hortgro in 2015, it became apparent that by bringing these two like-minded organisations together, both will gain so much from the combined expert knowledge in Hortgro and PALS,” concludes Lennox Plaatjies, National Liaison Officer.