SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa based Grower Development Company (GDC), owned by Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) has issued R40-million (US$2.18m) in grant funding to support enterprise development of emerging citrus growers and their farms across South Africa through its Enterprise Development Grant Fund (EDGF).

The grant funding provides support to growers through the purchase of key production inputs, including fertiliser and chemicals required for farming, reports Engineering News.

“This is critical following exorbitant price hikes across a number of farming inputs this year, with fertiliser prices having increased by more than 56% between 2020 and 2021 owing to tight supplies, rising raw material costs, increased demand, logistics constraints and high freight rates.

“These price increases have hit smaller black growers the hardest,” says industry body Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa CEO Justin Chadwick.

The GDC expects small developmental citrus growers will continue to be hard-hit by the rising pressure of increasing input costs over the next few years. It has allocated R141-million in EDGF funding between 2021 and 2024.

The funding made available to developmental growers is collected through an export levy paid yearly by CGA members to the GDC.

The GDC then administers and allocates the funding through direct payments to service providers towards the successful enterprise development of black citrus growers and producers in South Africa.

“The CGA-GDC welcomes the continued support of bigger commercial growers through their commitment to pay annual levies to ensure that our sector supports smaller, developmental growers with access to funding to grow their enterprises sustainably,” Chadwick says.

By supporting these growers with funding towards these critical inputs, the GDC also hopes to help mitigate the impact of other industry-wide challenges affecting the sustainability and profitability of developmental farms in the sector.

The challenges include reduced market access, as well as the highly stringent and costly phytosanitary regulations applied by the European Union, decaying public infrastructure, erratic electricity supply and a devastating decline in real export prices, he adds.

Further, with industry experts forecasting that less than 20% of the industry is likely to achieve above break-even returns at the end of this year, it is clear that the support and assistance offered by the GDC to smaller developmental growers will remain critical if South Africa wants to ensure the long-term survival of the businesses within the sector, Chadwick says.

Long-term, the EDGF will assist developmental growers with the capital required to procure production infrastructure, machinery, equipment and a range of horticultural products.

The grant also aims to assist growers with the costs associated with the accreditation required, including legal and professional, towards the commercialisation of their fruit for export to foreign markets.

Recently, the CGA welcomed 164 citrus growers from Botswana into the association, joining the over 1,400 other citrus fruits producers from South Africa, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.

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