Citrus farmers in the Eastern Cape were assured yesterday that the provincial government would cooperate in ensuring the continued viability of the R3-billion-a-year industry.
But, at the same time, premier Phumulo Masualle urged the farmers to step up their efforts for communities more widely to benefit from citrus.
South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) regional manager Mbulelo Peterson said it was hoped the upgrading of roads serving the Sundays River Valley would begin in June next year.
The developments were announced when Masualle and a high-level delegation of MECs visited the area.
Citrus farmer have long complained that poor infrastructure, water scarcity, electricity glitches and sewage spills are putting strain on the second largest industry in the Eastern Cape.
Sundays River Valley Producer Forum general manager Greg Jones said the group had approached the premier two months ago because the valley had so much to offer but poor infrastructure and water scarcity were hampering their businesses.
Farmers involved in yesterday’s talks also said that if they did not have the proper infrastructure, their produce became worthless as, by the time it reached the harbour for export, it was damaged.
Masualle said provincial departments had decided to coordinate efforts to find ways to resolve the issues for the industry to succeed and continue to empower the local economy.
“I have brought in different departments to come up with solutions.”
But the premier said farmers should also help develop workers – who generally benefited only during harvesting– to become producers.