Dr Konanani Liphadzi is chief executive officer at Fruit South Africa (FSA), the industry body that brings together the five product-specific grower organisations in South Africa. Here, she talks about the transformation that has taken place in the industry since Black Economic Empowerment initiatives were first introduced in 2003
In the fruit industry what we are doing is in line with the South African government’s objectives of transformation to try and address inequality in the sector. In order to do this, each of the five associations [within Fruit South Africa] has a transformation representative whose sole responsibility is to ensure transformation happens and there is support for black growers and especially for young people – targeting young people is so important – to encourage them to come into the sector.
In partnership with the Produce Marketing Association, we host careers fairs and go to various universities around the country to talk to students and get them interested in a career in the industry, not just in growing but along the whole supply chain.
We have programmes that have been set up to ensure black people are entering the sector as owners of farms or packhouses or other businesses along the supply chain. It is a process and it is a very slow one. It will take a long time.
There are also programmes so that people that have been working in the sector for a long time can come together and own a stake in a farm. This can be financed by the owners, so their long-term employees can gain a stake in the farm, but we also have government programmes so government can buy a stake in an existing business which people can then apply for.
The number of beneficiaries of these transformation programmes was about 15,000 in 2014/15. That is people who have benefitted in the first category of programmes where they have come to be owners, or in the second category where they are taking a share in an existing business.
There are also more beneficiaries – some 137 for example have benefited directly from bursaries from the FSA member associations. Individual companies are also carrying out their own transformation initiatives but this is not necessarily reported so it is not possible to see the whole picture.
When we talk about transformation, it’s about race, but there is a second layer of transformation and that is about getting women into the sector. At FSA, we don’t have a specific programme for women, but we work with the government on its female-farmer programme and there are women involved in the emerging farms we are working with.
As a woman myself, I believe there should be nothing to hinder them from participating fairly and equally within the sector – if you empower women, you empower a nation.
There is still a lot of work to be done on transformation, but there is also a lot of good work that needs to be highlighted. I think there is a need to try and consolidate the different activities and then what we are all doing will look even better than it does now.
Transformation is not a requirement in the South African fruit industry – there is no labelling requirement or certification and although at FSA we do not want to put an extra regulatory burden on producers, if consumers want their produce to come from a transformation farm, then they should ask for it – consumers have a very strong voice.
The trade in the UK can support transformation initiatives by sponsoring visits to market and these can be very eye-opening for producers; to visit retailers, wholesalers and the ports, etc. You can support them by enabling emerging producers to grow, with mentoring to help them produce quality and quantity.
For example, the Netherlands has been funding a programme to develop smallholders and help them with what they need to do to meet Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) standards.
These might seem like small things, but they are very important, and it is the small things that unlock the potential for emerging growers.