Limpopotatoes go large

Enterprise development is taking New Era farmers to the top

potatoes.jpg

The core business purpose of Potatoes SA ‘s (PSA) transformation drive is to identify and assist New Era Black potato producers to participate in mainstream agriculture. For the past 9 years PSA, through its Enterprise Development Programme, has been supporting

New Era farmers to ensure their development towards becoming fully-fledged commercial farmers. New Era Black potato producers from Limpopo have shown keen interest to participate in the Enterprise Development Programme, hence the majority of the participants are from this province. Since its inception, the Enterprise Development Programme assisted 48 farmers from all 16 potato production regions in South Africa. The hectares that has been supported are about 470 ha in total.

To ensure that the correct cultivation practices of potatoes are followed by the farmers, PSA has allocated a mentor to each farmer who will assist them throughout the whole production process of potatoes. The funds to support participating farmers come from the statutory levies paid on each bag of potatoes. The National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), which monitors the administration and utilization of the levy, stipulates that 20% of the levy must be used towards transformation. The NAMC also provides guidelines on how to spend funds. Sixty percent of the funds must be allocated towards the Enterprise Development Programme.

The Enterprise Development Programme aims to assist in setting up, supporting and growing a viable new commercial Black owned potato enterprise by:

- Developing an economic programme that is aimed at sustainable potato production by New Era producers in order to utilise available land    and assist to the maximum benefit of an integrated production system.

- Developing New Era producers to grow and produce commercially in a sustainable way.


Originally, support provided to the participating farmers through the Enterprise Development programme was divided into four parts. The four parts exists of provision of seed, training, technical support and the industry exposure. Each farmer was supported for four years on a sliding scale basis (Y1=100%, Y2=75%, Y3=50%, Y4=25). The number of farmers to be taken in on the programme was determined by the availability of budget for each year.

Based on this support model farmers were experiencing several challenges. Access to finance to buy other inputs and machinery were the major challenges. To participate in the programme farmers were required to have their own funds to buy other inputs like fertilizers and chemicals. These challenges resulted in zero progress as the number of hectares did not increase.

This model was revised, and PSA adopted a new implementation process which include conducting a pre-feasibility study for identified farmers, conducting a business plan, identification of other industry partners to be linked with the farmers. Since PSA started to use the new implementation process, there has been a great improvement in the selection of farmers and linking them up with the input suppliers. The new strategy also allowed PSA not to limit the hectares to 5 ha per farmer but to look at the potential of each farmer and to match the resources available at the disposal of the farmer. By rewarding the farmers who are already participating in the programme and showing commitment, PSA enabled the farmers to plant more hectares.

The progress is now more visible because the number of hectares of potatoes planted by New Era Black farmers is on the rise, as well as the tonnage harvested. There are participating farmers who already have the potential to farm commercially. Aldrin Lawrence, one of the participating farmers, is performing well in terms of tonnage yield. During the 2018 season he received an above average yield of 63.3 tons per hectare. Another promising farmer is Vuyani Kama in the Eastern Cape. He started with only 4ha and is now on 3ha, which is regarded as commercial level.

Phophi Raletjena was a participating farmer in the Limpopo province who has exited the Enterprise Development Programme successfully and who is now farming commercially. He started on the programme eight years ago with only 5 ha of potatoes and other vegetables. Because of his commitment, PSA was encouraged to gradually increase his hectares from only 5ha to 33.4 ha when he exited the program.

He has a fully equipped packhouse at his farm. This has opened another market opportunity for Phophi as he can now send his potatoes to the fresh produce markets. Phophi is also assisting other fellow farmers by washing and sorting their potatoes if they want to send it to the market. He has created jobs for many, as he employs16 permanent workers and about 72 seasonal workers.

Through his hard work Phophi managed to access a loan funding from AECI for a period of three years. He will be planting 48ha of potatoes in this coming season and he is aiming for a higher yield than in the 2018 season. Because of his dedication, Phophi was the first participant to be awarded with the Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year during the PSA Transformation Symposium 2018.

One of the most significant barriers for development in the potato industry is access to finance. It is for this reason that PSA decided to form partnerships with different stakeholders in the industry. Collaborating with partners to assist farmers has become a very important component of the Enterprise Development Programme. Cooperatives, such as VKB/NTK, provide co-funding to the farmers for the other inputs required. McCain plays an important role in terms of being an offtaker of the produce, especially where the farmers do not have access to washing and sorting facilities before sending the produce to the market. The majority of farmers who benefit from this partnership are from Limpopo province. Some of the Limpopo participants have formed a good relationship with the Mozambican markets to sell their produce. This is an excellent arrangement as the Mozambican markets come to the farm to collect and do not require washing and sorting. A partnership with AECI/Nulandis was created where they provide loans to a farmer after the farmer graduated from the Enterprise Development Programme and has reached commercial status.

PSA has launched its first Transformation Symposium 2013. This event takes place every second year alternating with the year the PSA Congress takes place. The goals for this event entail, amongst others, to bring all New Era potato producers, development stakeholders and community project leaders under one roof to discuss challenges, share ideas, and find solutions. In addition, the Symposium provides farmers with the opportunity to learn from one another, to show what PSA is doing in terms of transformation and to showcase success stories in potato farming development. Through this event, there are many opportunities for networking. Farmers get to obtain exposure and learn important lessons on how other farmers have achieved success.

Potatoes SA

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