SA berries make their mark

19 May 2003

Think strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries – as well as boysenberries, taeberries and currants. Chapter II Farming Enterprises is helping South African berry producers get their fruit on the world market, and creating thousands of jobs in the process.

Since 1998, Chapter II has been uplifting the local berry industry and developing berry production under the banner of Outeniqua Berry Ventures. Within five years, the company aims to create massive employment – of 4 200 jobs have already been created – and earn millions in foreign exchange.

With berry production declining in the UK and Europe due to poor weather conditions, the cost of labour and production, limited availability of agricultural land and strict pesticide control, South African growers have gained significant export opportunities, according to Andre Immelman of Chapter II Farming Enterprises.

Demand for berry fruit in the UK and Europe far outstrips supply, and given South Africa’s strategic advantages and ideal berry-growing climate, the country is well placed to tap into these markets, says Immelman.

South Africa’s berry industry previously suffered from a bad reputation because of an infringement of international plant breeders’ rights. International breeders denied South African growers access to new varieties, giving countries like Australia, New Zealand and Chile the competitive edge.

Outeniqua Berry Ventures has reformed contacts with foreign customers and suppliers, and is re-organising and regulating the industry in South Africa.

The rights to develop new berry varieties bred by international breeding programmes from the University of California and Florida (USA) and Redeva (UK) have been secured, and a number of innovative techniques and products have revolutionised the local agricultural sector.

Chapter II has developed the VertiGro Hydroponic Growing System, a method that introduces unique designs that allow farmers to grow their produce vertically in a compact way, to maximise the use of limited and expensive growing space. This product, manufactured by a company in George in the Western Cape, has been well received throughout the world.

“Through our Proudly South African status, we intend to focus our efforts on gaining recognition for the country’s ability to perform and to renew international faith in the integrity of South Africa’s agricultural industry,” says Immelman.

Source: Proudly South African