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About 150 guests, politicians, dignitaries, and industry representatives attended the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber’s Summit Launch in White River last week. Pressing issues such as how to transform the deciduous fruit value chain and how to ensure economic inclusiveness were addressed.

Here is Hortgro Chairperson Nic Dicey’s address: 

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to attend and contribute to this event from a Hortgro perspective. Allow me to give some background about Hortgro as the service provider for numerous activities for all pome and stone producers in South Africa. Hortgro is the national umbrella industry service body for the pome (apple & pear) industry within Hortgro Pome and stone fruit industry within Hortgro Stone (plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots & cherries) as well as a few associated commodities such as berries, olives, pomegranates, figs, and cape flora.

Hortgro provides services either within itself and its various sub-structures or in alliance with other industries or appropriate stakeholders for a wide range of industry functions and services as identified and approved from time to time. Through Hortgro Pome or Hortgro Stone, these Hortgro activities are funded by producers via statutory levies and user pay fees for specific services it is contracted for. Therefore, all apple and pear and stone fruit producers present here are automatically members of Hortgro either through Hortgro Pome or Hortgro Stone. Funding is aligned with the directives and guidelines from the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) the Auditor General and the Pome and Stone Industry Strategic Plans.

Hortgro is contracted by Hortgro Pome and Stone to act as facilitator and enabler to ensure a conducive environment for all our members to grow their businesses profitably and sustainably throughout the value chain.

Hortgro’s Vision: Enabling Inclusive Growth – Doubling the industry by 2050

Hortgro Strapline: Growing Fruit IQ

Hortgro is responsible for the execution and implementation of industry services and functions structured within 11 key programmes. Economic development and land reform, supported by socio-economic rural development, skills development, and training form two of the key focus areas within Hortgro. These programmes are:

  • Good Governance, Administration & Financial Management
  • Scientific Research & Development and Technology Transfer
  • Technical Market Access, Protocols & Product Standards
  • Plant Material Acquisition, incl Cultivar Development & Procurement
  • Independent Evaluation (cultivars and rootstocks)
  • Plant Improvement and Certification
  • Trade & Market Development, incl market intelligence
  • Economic Development and Land reform
  • Skills & Human resource development, incl Socio-Economic development
  • Industry Information & Statistics
  • Communication & Industry Representation

Being a summit where transformation in agriculture is highlighted I will concentrate on focus areas 8 & 9 as pursued by the Deciduous industry with the specific transformation focus areas relating to these programmes including:

  • Land reform, Enterprise Development, and Management Control through the transfer of skills and knowledge to ensure ownership throughout the Value Chain, guided by the underlying principles and key success factors identified for these activities; and
  • Facilitating and undertaking a range of initiatives to ensure human resource development, skills and training interventions and socio-economic transformation of the industry to ensure qualified employees and vibrant rural communities.

While the transformation agenda has its specific requirements and challenges it cannot stand alone, and it is critical that it needs a growing and prosperous industry supported by the other programmes as I’ve mentioned for it to succeed. Without an industry which attributes its growth and progression to the enablers as addressed in these programmes, the transformation will be a long and slow process with limited success being achieved.

As an Industry, we do acknowledge the critical importance of transformation in our sector both on primary and secondary or value chain levels. We accept that the pace of transformation is too slow and that it needs momentum and dedicated focus to make it happen. The DFDC was created as a sub-structure and strategic partner within the deciduous fruit industry to pursue mainly the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Strategic guiding and influencing transformation policies and programmes to the benefit of the deciduous industry as a whole;
  • Enhance and support the industry position regarding transformation throughout the value chain;
  • Communicate the successes and address the challenges of the deciduous industry given its long term and highly technical nature;
  • Assist with perception management and image of the industry within the political, public sector and media domain.

The slow progress of transformation that I have mentioned is due to several factors, but the industry has achieved measurable successes, mostly in the Western & Eastern Cape. We have just launched a new Initiative (Hortfin) to expand the Industry’s economic development initiatives and increase participation and ownership of black owned businesses throughout the value chain.  This initiative is another good example of effective and efficient Public-Private-Partnerships where the Industry have partnered with the Jobs fund and the Land Bank to establish  a R600 mill debt fund targeted at black owned entities with  favourable interest rates and terms including support services and functions from amongst others Hortgro and its sub-structures to ensure long-term sustainable, profitable entities whilst creating jobs and contributing to the rural economy. Coupled with economic transformation Hortgro recognises the need for socio economic upliftment and skills transformation and actively support communities and individuals with programmes and academic bursaries. Transformation is not only an act of goodwill or choice but is a requirement of legislation ito various pieces of legislation, including the charters and scorecards. Transformation is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and there is no one size fits all or quick fixes. Therefore, there are no silver bullets and/or a single solution or magic formulas that caters for all circumstances, conditions, requirements and needs.

In a long term, capital, labour and technical intensive industry such as ours, the barriers to entry are very high and even established commercial farmers are struggling to cope with trade, consumer demands, climate and drought challenges. Transformation is not an event, but a process that will take time and needs multi-disciplined solutions. It’s also not just about ownership, but skills and experiences relating to management which in many cases have taken generations for commercial ventures to reach their current state of development. Transformation means different things for different people. If others’ interpretation differs from yours, it does not mean you are right, and they are wrong, or vice versa. The transformation debate often leads to conflicting opinions ranging from the definition of what constitutes a transformation project to what the most effective ways of utilising the often-limited funds that are available. Within the Deciduous Fruit Industry, we need to ensure that all these issues are debated in such a way that unity is maintained in ensuring that sustainable and progressive transformation objectives are achieved.

There needs to be room and acceptance of various approaches, philosophies and personalities dealing with a wide range of initiatives. Any interventions or initiative that is commercially sustainable and socially and economically impactful should be encouraged and supported. In our type of industry, even a 10-20% equity stake could be impactful and meaningful if key principles and success factors are adhered to – therefor it has always been the approach of the Pome and Stone fruit Industries to serve the needs of the total spectrum of industry stakeholders, to enhance Broad Based Transformation.

Given a growth scenario, it is important that secondary infrastructure, logistics and trade/market access issues, market development, etc also need to be attended to for additional volumes to be marketed profitably globally. If Government can open markets for us, investment will follow. If that investment and growth is linked to transformation and land reform, we will start to experience meaningful land reform and economic development and a real change to the profile of our sector throughout the value chain.

Hortgro, the DFDC and the DFI is committed to transformation and will aid in whatever way we can.

Thank you & good luck with your endeavours.

Nicholas Dicey

Group Vip
Pictured here from left: Dr Job Mthombeni, MEC detail, Dr Vuyo Mahlathi, Mpumalanga MEC for Agriculture, Mr Vusi Shongwe, Ismail Motala, Thembi Xaba, Mose Mkhabela, Nic Dicey and Pitso Sekhoto.
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