Over the next few months we will highlight some of the projects and programmes at HORTGRO. This month Elise-Marie Steenkamp talks to Louis van Zyl, HORTGRO’s General Manager, and his admin and financial team who do astonishing work for the deciduous industry.
Twenty years ago the deciduous fruit industry was transformed from a single-channel marketing organisation to a free enterprise marketing environment and at that time the Deciduous Fruit Producers’ Trust (DFPT) was formed to protect the interests of the South African deciduous fruit growers, says Louis van Zyl HORTGRO’s General Manager. Over the years DFPT has morphed into the servicing body known to the industry today, as HORTGRO.
Van Zyl who has been at the administrative and financial helm of HORTGRO for just over 19 years’ says that over the past two decades he has seen it all. Joy, hardship good seasons, bad seasons and realized that the bigger industry is one big caring family.
“HORTGRO has grown from a voluntary levy funding system, with difficult funding periods including a time where loans from its members kept the boat afloat, to a stable industry support structure it is today.”
Apart from being the mouthpiece of the industry, HORTGRO also lobbies governmental authorities and other interested groups for deciduous growers, says Van Zyl.
One of the main functions of HORTGRO is to provide a range of industry services, financial management, information technology and administrative services to its principal members, the South African Apple and Pear Producers’ Association (SAAPPA) and the South African Stone Fruit Producers’ Association (SASPA).
Apart from pome and stone fruit growers, HORTGRO also services a number of smaller horticultural industry bodies and other industry entities such as Dried fruit – making it a total of 34 legal entities currently being serviced.
HORTGRO has also been contracted to implement various provisions of the Agricultural Products Marketing Act and collects statutory levies on behalf of the following organisations: SAAPPA; SASPA; FruitFly Africa; SA Olive Industry Association; Cape Flora SA; SA Pomegranate Industry and the SA Pecan Producers’ Association. It also administers and collects payments for a number of user-pay industry services.
HORTGRO was also contracted to implement various programmes in conjunction with other role-players including:
- Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture pertaining to support for emerging producers, for both deciduous fruit and citrus via the industries and the Commodity Project Allocation Committee (CPAC)
- Alternative Crops Research Fund (ACF) with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture,
- Jobs Fund – economic development of 23 farms in Western and Eastern Cape in conjunction with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, National Treasury and Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber,
- SIZA Platform – Sustainable Agricultural South Africa (SIZA), IDH and the Dept. of Agricultural of the Western Cape,
- Produce Marketing Association (PMA) – Membership , Fresh Connections and the Agri-Food Career Fair
- Pre-clearance program for Deciduous & Citrus Fruit – Trust Fund with US Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture, Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA APHIS)
The administrative function provided by HORTGRO includes the following:
- Acting as a change agent relating to land reform, training and other socio-economic dimensions affecting the agricultural sector;
- Coordinating the information exchanged among the sub-structures and alternative crops, provincial and national government and other stakeholders and interest groups;
- Enhancing the long-term economic viability and sustainability of the industry to ensure an enabling environment for industry stakeholders to prosper;
- Positioning horticultural products favourably among target audiences through the lowering of input costs, enhancing efficiencies in the export value chain based on long-term alliances and strategic relationships;
- Protecting and expanding market access and market share based on effective technical support and communication;
- Providing information and perspectives on all aspects relating to the horticultural industry;
- The HR Department deals with industry submissions, the Annual Skills Plan as well as Employment Equity Plans and Reporting.
- Employee Wellness is very important to our organisation and we continue to offer support to our employees
- HORTGRO is committed to equal opportunities for all its employees. Our employees are encouraged to learn and grow as part of their journey to further develop their personal and professional skills set. An Internal Bursary Scheme is available to our employees wishing to further their studies.
- By providing opportunities to develop and grow, we insure that we are attracting and retaining exceptional individuals with a passion for agriculture.
- Employment Equity remains challenging as our employee turnover rates are very low and not much new position arise. However 100% of new positions last year were filled with employees from previously disadvantages groups.
Van Zyl says it is his vision and that of his personnel to assist its members in making a difference in the lives of all people living and working in agriculture, and to assist the industry in transforming and helping to keep South Africa as preferred supplier of fruit anywhere in the world.