Citrus farmers in the Eastern Cape

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Thoko Didiza while talking to Entsimini at CGA Citrus Summit in Gqeberha. PICTURE: BHEKI RADEBE

On the Eastern Cape, there is clear evidence that Black farmers are actively involved in citrus production. This was confirmed by Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, when she spoke to Entsimini at the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) Citrus Summit in Gqeberha.

“Yes, there are Black farmers in the Eastern Cape and South Africa that produce citrus, but we can say that there are still few of them who export their products to the rest of the world,” Didiza noted.

Didiza presented a keynote speech at an event for citrus farmers hosted at the Boardwalk Hotel in Gqeberha.

“When you compare the number of Black farmers that produce citrus products to that of white farmers, there are very few Black farmers. But the government is making attempts to expand the number of Black farmers,” Didiza said.

She stated that Black farmers required land for farming immediately and pledged that they would take this into consideration. “Another issue we encounter is that Black farmers do not receive support from private companies to install planting materials and irrigate,” Didiza explained.

She expressed her hope that the CGA’s plan will make a meaningful difference so that Black farmers can see it.

“In their 2060 plan, they stated that they intended to ensure the growth of farmers and to enhance the amount of citrus goods that are exported,” said Didiza.

Nonkqubela Pieters, the MEC for the Eastern Cape’s Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, attested to this by stating the following to Entsimini: “There are 38 Black farmers who are engaged citrus farming in the Eastern Cape, and just five of them are women,” Pieters added.

According to Pieters’ report, the majority of these farmers are from the Sarah Baartman and Nelson Mandela region. She said that the Eastern Cape has set aside R50 million for the development of the province’s small-scale farmers.

“With this money, we are in the process of increasing the work of farmers who are just starting out; the government has committed R25 million, and the rest comes from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC),” Pieters explained.

Zukile Mgudle is evidence that there are Black farmers working in the Eastern Cape’s citrus industry. Mgudle said that he had been producing citrus at his Ripplemead farm in Peddie for more than 30 years.

“What we are proud of in all of this is that we export our oranges every year, we bring foreign exchange into South Africa, and we also create jobs for other people,” said Mgudle.

He stated that the increase in their citrus production has allowed them and their employees to put food on the table.

“The main issue we have is that government assistance takes time to reach us; it does so after the damage is significant, but we still receive help and support from the government,” said Mgudle.

Headman Manyonta is a citrus grower at the Oakdale farm in Balfour, and he said there are issues that are impeding their growth.

“Aside from the war between Ukraine and Russia, we were affected by a change in the laws regulating the acceptance of our products by Spain; when Spain made this change, the cargo ships were already at sea,” Manyonta explained.