SA: Massmart signs up smaller farmers to supply fresh produce
South African retailer Massmart's campaign to enlist black emerging farmers to supply fresh produce in the company's string of supermarket chains kicks off this week in Limpopo.
Direct farm program head Kobus Pienaar, said 40-52 small to medium-sized farmers were already signed up with the aim of expanding the number to 1,500 within the next few years.
"We are really serious about this and we would like to make progress as soon as possible. We already have bits and pieces on the shelves but we hope to improve this," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
One of the conditions of the Wal-Mart takeover of Massmart, approved by the Competition Tribunal in June last year, was that the retail giant offer a supplier development fund.
Massmart has pledged ZAR100 million (US$21.86 million) for a supplier development fund aimed at providing farmers with a market for their produce plus input finance, packhouse refurbishment and skills development.
The iniative will also pave the way for smaller farming enterprises gaining GLOBALG.A.P. certification which would enable them to export.
"We will help them to get an audit, out of the results we wil see what ther risks are and we will work with them to get the risks sorted out and then one day they can get a certification and then they can export. We want to help them to get to that standard."
The program is starting in Limpopo because it is one of the earlier harvest regions, but it will incorporate all major growing areas so that Massmart can supply fresh produce all-year round.
"We look at the farmers, where they are, the climate and soil and what can be easily grown well. We will start engaging with them in this regard."
Fresh produce, including all fruit categories, will appear in Massmart's Game stores under the 'Foodco' brand and in Makro, Jumbo, Cambridge and Shield outlets.
The Government and trade unions unsuccessfuly lodged a review application with the Competition Appeals Court in March this year to have the merger decision overturned.
Although the court rejected the application, one its conditions was for a further study to be done to protect local suppliers.
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