SOUTH AFRICA –  The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) of South Africa has launched an Economic Transformation of Black Citrus Growers Programme worth R307 million (US$16.5m), targeted to create 1, 726 permanent and seasonal jobs in the industry.

The project is aimed to make funding and technical support available to black citrus growers for orchard establishment, expansion and rehabilitation, as well as on-farm development of infrastructure including pack-houses, bulk-water supply and irrigation systems.

To finance the programme, CGA has contributed R24m with additional support from the Jobs Fund who committed R118m (US$6.35m) to the project, with the Land Bank contributing an additional R116m (US$6.24m) in loan funding.

The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries and AGRISETA also pledged R34m (US$1.83m) and R12m (US$0.64m) respectively.

The CGA and Jobs Fund are the lead partners on the programme and have appointed Lima Rural Development as the programme manager.

The Citrus Academy will provide skills development support, while the CGA Grower Development Company (CGA-GDC) will be the implementation agent for the programme.

The programme would be implemented over three years across South Africa, with a specific focus on the Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.

To qualify for funding, growers have to have a minimum of 60 percent black ownership. Other criteria included producing or packing exported citrus, having appropriate management structures, relationships with external service providers, human resource development plans, security of land tenure and sufficient water supply.

“We believe the Economic Transformation of Black Citrus Growers Programme will help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and make a major contribution to grow the volume, value and level of participation of black citrus growers in the industry,” said CGA CEO Justin Chadwick in a statement.

“Despite work done over the past few years, transformation in the industry remains constrained and the usual barriers persist. A revolving loan component will ensure the programme’s continued ability to reach more growers post the Jobs Fund’s involvement,” said Jobs Fund head Najwah Allie-Edries.