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South Africa: first dividend from Denau Workers' Trust

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South Africa: first dividend from Denau Workers' Trust

Grape growers in the South African Hex River Valley have received their first dividends from the Denau Workers Trust, according to the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI).

A SATI release said the payment came from the profits of new farm Alpha in the Sandhills area, as a part of goodwill from the trust's commercial partner and Denau Farm owner Pieter Naude.

The trust was established in 2006 with 118 beneficiaries who applied for grants from the South African Government Deparment of Land Affairs, in order buy a 50% stake in table grape farm Hoogland in the Western Cape.

Naude owned Hoogland but in 2008 the farm's entire harvest was destroyed by a late black frost in early October, while in December 2009 a fire burned a large section of the farm. SATI said these two natural disasters had a negative impact on the trust's financial position.

"The turn of events was unfortunate and as the commercial partners of the Trust we were investigating ways in which we could restore the trust to the position of positive potential that it held at the time that the beneficiaries had received the grants from the Department of Land Affairs," said Denau Farm managing director Fanie Naude.

"It became clear that the process of developing a new farm at a distance of 40km (24.85 miles) away from the main operation is challenging and expensive. For us as commercial partners it was tough to share bad news about the farm's finances with the Trustees year on year.

"It made better sense to invest in a developed farm closer to us and make this productive and lucrative but the opportunity to acquire a farm that fits this bill is rare indeed."

In 2010 the Workers Trust sold its share in Hoogland to buy a 100% in Alpha, financed partly by a bond from ABSA Bank. SATI says the transaction in December was 'tricky' as it was at the start of harvest, but the parties involved showed commitment.

"We are proud of our new farm and very grateful for the opportunity to start anew," said Denau Farm Workers Trust secretary Katriena Arendse, who has been a Denau Farm employee for 30 years.

"The new start has given us good future prospects and the beneficiaries are prepared to work hard to pay off our debts - The farm presents a nest egg for our future and is an investment for our children.

The farm has 15 hectares of table grapes, while the past harvest was successful enough to provide working capital for the preparation and harvest of the forthcoming crop, and pay ZAR500 (US$64.80) per person.

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