After a prolonged and intensive process of negotiations between Hortgro and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Hortgro Pome and Stone Fruit Boards have made a decision that the industry should dis-engage itself from the ARC breeding programme with immediate effect.
This follows a process that started as far back as March 2016 when it became evident that the breeding programme needed to be refocused in order to address a number of challenges that were being experienced with the programme.
Hortgro will continue to contract a range of research projects with the ARC based on the industries’ needs and priorities. Regarding cultivars, it will work through Culdevco to access any new cultivars that might come available through the ARC breeding programme to be available to all producers.
It became clear that from an industry perspective, given the compliance and legislative environment within which the ARC must operate as a state-owned enterprise (SOE), it is not possible for the two parties to enter into a meaningful long-term partnership agreement that adequately addresses the issues around the ownership and management of Intellectual Property Rights, the locality of evaluation sites and co-decision making.
The industry will now focus its efforts on its third-party cultivar evaluation programme through Provar (an independent cultivar evaluation facility) in order to inform planting decisions. It will also facilitate and guide the sourcing of climate-appropriate cultivars and rootstocks through SAPO and other organisations given that producers can no longer afford costly mistakes with the wrong cultivar and/or rootstock combination being planted commercially.
Hortgro acknowledges the contribution that the ARC breeding programme has made to the industry over many years. We thank the ARC leadership and management for the goodwill and spirit in which the negotiations were conducted over a prolonged period of time. As an industry we wish the ARC all the best with its endeavours and further development of its breeding programme. We understand and respect the constraints and Hortgro will continue to provide information and guidance to the ARC when and where requested.
As an industry we look forward to the future commercialisation of locally bred deciduous fruit cultivars by the ARC, which will continue to be available to the South African industry.
Download full statement in English and Afrikaans here: 2020-may-hortgro-statement-on-arc-breeding-programme-final