Potato power

Assisting emerging farmers to become profitable

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Potatoes South Africa has been engaged in the Enterprise Development Programme for the past eight years. The initial aim of Enterprise Development was to engage six farmers every year in the programme. This decision was based on the available budget and the cost of producing potatoes. We have since reviewed this strategy as we want to ensure that we assist participants into becoming commercial farmers at the end of the day. Currently we can provide support for up to 30 hectares per farmer, which is the minimum for a commercial unit of potatoes according to industry norms.

Since the inception of the Enterprise Development Programme, Potatoes SA has assisted more than 40 black farmers by investing R25 million in the programme. This has gone a long way toward assisting the farmers to establish themselves in the potato industry, given that the cost of producing one hectare of potatoes under irrigation ranges between R160 000 and can go as high as R230 000 in the Limpopo region.

We constantly receive applications from farmers who want to join in the Enterprise Development Programme, and it is therefore fitting that we have criteria in place for selecting new entrants. One of the criteria is access to sufficient land: for example, the farmer must have access to a minimum of 120 hectares of arable land for planting 30 hectares of potatoes, since potatoes is a rotation crop. Another criterion is the availability of irrigation to optimise returns in terms of tonnage.

The second focus area of Potatoes South Africa’s Transformation Core Business is the Small Grower Development Programme. This programme involves farmers who plant potatoes mainly for food security with the surplus crop sold to the immediate community. The main goals of this programme are to:

Disseminate production and business information through trials;
Provide farmers with practical training on good potato production practices; and
Utilise cultivar or demonstration trials as a way of educating, training and disseminating important production information necessary for successful potato production.
More than 4000 farmers have been reached through this programme, which has contributed significantly to improving the food security of numerous households in different regions. During the 2017/2018 financial year, Potatoes South Africa supported 14 Small Grower Development Projects with each project generally being attended by an average of 50 farmers.

As a major role player in the potato industry, we believe that training is key to achieving the objectives of Black farmer development. We conduct research to identify the gaps that exists and training is rolled out accordingly. Some of the objectives of our training programmes are to:

  • Uplift the skills of the emerging farmers focussing on decision-making and understanding their role;
  • Assist in developing potato farmers with technical and business skills to enable them to farm profitably; and
  • Improve the quality of potato production by improving the knowledge base of the potato farmer.

We have been providing bursaries and an internship programme to deserving students at agricultural colleges and universities. This year, 15 new students were approved for funding at different universities and colleges. Our bursary funding has gone a long way in developing much needed researchers and extension officers to service the growing agricultural industry. The Internship Programme and the Workplace Experience Programme provide students with the necessary exposure, making it easier for them to be absorbed into the industry during this period of high unemployment.

This year, we hosted the 5th Potatoes South Africa Transformation Symposium in Pretoria. The primary objective of the Transformation Symposium is to create a platform for black potato farmers and community project leaders to meet, discuss problems, find solutions and plan the road ahead. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for role players in the potato value chain to meet and be part of the solution in the quest to assist black potato farmers to become fully-fledged commercial potato producers. The Symposium also provides Potatoes South Africa with the ideal opportunity to showcase progress made and successes achieved in the potato industry as far as transformation is concerned. This year’s Symposium was even more exciting as the first ever Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year, Mr Pophi Raletjane of Limpopo, was announced at the prestigious Gala Dinner. We believe that this occasion will motivate our farmers to work even harder to achieve the objectives of transformation within the potato industry.

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