Three countries in twelve days is a tall order. If you have never travelled abroad before… it’s a mind warp.
Ask anyone of the emerging growers that joined the combined HORTGRO/Western Cape Government Department of Agriculture’s study tour to Europe this year. The tour that ended with a visit to Fruit Logistica 2016 in Berlin, Germany, has been hailed by all as an unforgettable experience.
Why the tour?
Seeing and experiencing the different cultures are important, as is talking to industry role players on various levels in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, said Anton Rabe, HORTGRO executive director.
“It is about exposure and educating the growers about standards and expectations in other countries.”
“For HORTGRO it is of critical importance that emerging growers experience the full impact of the food value chain first-hand. As a whole, South Africa’s international footprint is small and it is important that we don’t fragment our offer. In future emerging growers are going to make a bigger contribution to our production outputs – it is therefore vital that they are integrated within the current structures and marketing channels. First hand exposure to the demands and realities of a very discerning international fruit market, gives them perspectives that they can hopefully plough back and assist in guiding collective industry actions,” said Rabe.
Pitso Sekhoto, Deciduous Fruit Novice of the Year Winner in 2015 and director of Mokolobane Farmers Enterprises in the Free State, said: “I am grateful for this opportunity to come on a tour like this. It changed my understanding of how things work for European consumers, packers and retailers. For them everything is about quality. What I found most interesting is the power that consumers have. If they find one piece of bad fruit in a packet, it has repercussions for everyone. The retailer has to refund the consumer and then they again get fined by the pack house/importer with the producer that ultimately pays.
“I have learned a lot and take some innovative ideas with me back to Makolobane. The one thing I think we need in our farming area is a pack house. If we could do pack our own fruit, it will increase efficiency and profit.”
Deciduous Fruit Farm Manager of the Year, Frikkie Jacobs, from the farm Queen Anne outside Villiersdorp, who managed to improve production on the farm with 60% within a two year period, said seeing what farm land physically looks like in Europe has been a mind-opener for him.
“Everything is flat and then you realise why platforms work so well over there. Our orchard floors are mostly not suited for some forms of technology and the use of platforms. We will have to change our orchard architecture and create orchards to accommodate the use of technology. Then we can increase production and efficiency.”
For Cathy Cornelius, emerging fruit grower from the Langkloof, the clever use of packaging to draw consumers in, was a highlight.
“They have all these promotions and interesting packaging ideas on the retailer shelves. As a parent you want to give your children fruit to eat, when the product is cleverly packaged it makes it so much easier. It is something we have to work at.”
Fruit Logistica 2016
The tour ended with a visit to the annual globe event for the fresh produce industry – Fruit Logistica at the Messe in Berlin. This year an unprecedented 70,000 trade visitors from over 130 countries – a new record – attended the event. Some 2,891 exhibitors from 84 countries presented a complete market overview of the fresh produce industry. Along with the many opportunities to initiate and conclude business transactions, the global attention attracted by the trade fair was especially important to exhibitors. The high level of innovative strength in the sector was clearly demonstrated by no less than 27 world premieres.
Fruit Logistica 2016 proved itself as a highlight on the global fruit industry calendar, said Jacques du Preez, HORTGRO General Manger: Trade and Markets.
“The different fruit industries greatly appreciate the financial contribution the Department of Trade and Industry made to build and manage such a big pavilion. The SA stand attracted a lot of attention and was a bustling hive of people networking, fixing deals for the season and meeting up with stakeholders from all corners of the earth. It creates a platform for business to take place and relationships to be forged spanning all continents. It is very encouraging to see how the government, various industries, with the support of the embassy in Germany, can pull together to grow and propel the fruit industry forward.”