Growers face harsh reality on the ground
Though the government has already pumped billions into growing black participation in the citrus industry, the outcomes seen on the ground are a depressing reality.
Black farmers operating citrus production farms across SA shared what they believe must be included in land reform policies to ensure growth within the sector and long-term food security in the country.
CGA Grower Development Company chair Mono Mashaba told the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) summit in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday that the total area farmed by black citrus growers had increased from 7,211ha in 2016 to 8,103ha in 2018.
However, these farmers were faced with mounting challenges from the get-go, related to minimal support from both the government and the private sector, access to water and a general lack of confidence in agribusiness, he said.
The biannual summit, held at the Boardwalk Hotel, hosted about 600 delegates from the agriculture industry across SA.
“The CGA is tasked with finding practical solutions for black growers,” Mashaba said.
“There is a great deal of pressure on the company from black growers to succeed and deliver on our mission.
“The reality on the ground is that there are both good and bad stories to tell.”
Louisa Maloka-Magotsi, who was awarded a 66 ha farm in Mooinooi in the North West through the department of rural development and land reform’s PLAS programme in 2015, said overall support for emergent farmers was scarce.
She said when she was initially granted the farm on a 30-year lease, infrastructure had deteriorated and the citrus trees needed rehabilitation.
She said her wish was for those involved in drawing up land reform strategies and policies to ensure that the relevant government officials were present at the hand-over and took a more hands-on approach when transferring the farm from one owner to the next.
“When I acquired the farm I also received a grant from the government, but with everything that needed to be done prior to production, the money was depleted fairly quickly,” Maloka-Magotsi said.
“The department of rural development must track how things progress and the handover must be in their presence.
“During the period where ownership is transferred, nobody takes care of the trees, the land or the infrastructure.”
Eastern Cape citrus farmer Siseko Maqoma said land reform had to happen in a responsible manner, where policies prevented people from finding loopholes that allowed them to award land to their friends or family.
“We have to get it right to ensure food security in our country,” Maqoma said.
“The government must ensure that those who are given land are interested in farming and want to contribute to the sustainability of the industry.”
Maqoma farms citrus on his Gonzana farm on the banks of the Kat River near Blinkwater, northwest of Fort Beaufort.
Bennet Malungane, who is involved in marketing at the Mabunda Citrus Farm in Limpopo, said emergent farmers – and particularly black growers – faced major challenges because they were not given title deeds to their farms.
He said getting access to funding from financial institutions was a struggle, which forced them to form alliances with strategic partners to access funds for production.
Even then, “we are faced with several challenges”.