Klein Ezeljacht is a farm near Greyton in the Overberg with 38 hectares of apple and pear orchards and undeveloped ground for grazing sheep. Andre Cloete, his wife Charmaine and his son Andrio run Altius Trading, the farming company farming on Klein Ezeljacht and André has been farming there since 2008. His fruit is packed and marketed through Tru-Cape.
He is an active member of the local farming community and a director of the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber (DFDC) and the South African Apple and Pear Producers’ Association (SAAPPA). André is also a mentor to other emerging farmers in the area and he won the Toyota 2016 New Harvest of the Year award.
André explained that the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber received the R120 million from the Jobs Fund to assist with the commercialisation of selected 100% black owned empowerment farming businesses within the Deciduous fruit industry. After many meetings and much consultation Klein Ezeljacht was selected as one of the projects and we have been running with this since 2016.
“The Jobs Fund assistance arrived at a very good time as it is helping emerging farmers to progress and expand their businesses to the point where they are established commercial farmers,” says André. “This assistance to our business will certainly help us to achieve this.
“In 2016 I was assigned 14ha of orchards but have not been able to plant any of the orchards yet as the plant material I want to use was not available yet. In 2018 I plan to plant 9ha in total; 5ha of Rosy Glo, and 4ha of Big Bucks. In 2019 I could possibly plant the remaining 5ha (1ha of Cheeky pears and 4ha of Sundowner apples) if the plant material I need is available then. I believe in choosing plant material that is of the best quality and the best varieties available.
“The farm belongs to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. It has 38ha of fruit orchards and with the 14ha from the Jobs Fund we will be able to expand this to 52ha as we have a water allocation to irrigate 52ha. I started this farming business as a commercial farm by taking a bank loan and I have paid this back. I have now been farming here for 10 years already and I am currently working on acquiring a 30-year lease for the farm. This was all signed off in December already and I am hoping to receive this soon. When the opportunity arises I would like to buy the farm as over the time I have been farming I have added value to the property. My son Andrio is also involved in the business and his main responsibility currently is the livestock. As a family we are committed to making this farming operation a commercial success.
“Water is a challenge and in order to have sufficient water security for the future, we will need to build a storage dam with a 50 000m3 capacity. We receive a winter water allocation from the river but unless we are able to store this until we need it during the summer months, this does not help us. If we had this water storage capacity we could fill the dam annually with our winter water allocation. We recently had a cloudburst in the area and we received 75mm within 2 hours. If this dam existed, it would have been filled from this one downpour! Another big challenge facing our farming operation is that we have a very outdated irrigation system and with the current water shortages, this has become a major priority in order to be successful.
“We have 18 permanent workers, 44 seasonal workers and 30 casual workers. With the additional 14ha we will be creating 1.2 permanent jobs per hectare. The figure is likely to be higher, particularly in the first two years while we are planting and establishing the new orchards.
“We are very grateful for the assistance from the Jobs Fund. A big potential problem that faces us and other Jobs Fund recipients is that there is the strong likelihood of a shortfall on the cash flow for the cost of labour to implement these rapid expansions. Employing people is expensive and as it will be a few years before the new orchards create returns, growers in our situation must either have the reserves to carry them through or access funding from a commercial partner of financial institution.
“I am also concerned that while the Jobs Fund is assisting with boosting primary agriculture, this is not assisting the recipients in gaining access to any of the secondary and tertiary sections of the value chain. They are growing within the primary agricultural sector but do not have access to downstream sectors of the value chain. This is something that the Jobs Fund needs to look at for future success I also strongly believe that the secondary and tertiary sectors of our Deciduous fruit industry need to get involved to assist successful transformation of our industry by assisting government with their mandate of transformation and reform.”