Batlhako Temo Services has successfully entered the Citrus export market, making them the first black-owned citrus orchard in the North West province to enter the global market.
The Brits based company will see their products going to Middle East areas as well as Taiwan.
Having started the project in 2012 on a farm leased from the now Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, the enterprise partner Issac Moilwa says the journey has not been easy.
North West Department of Agriculture spokesperson Emelda Setlhako said that the 5-member cooperative started in 2012.
They were producing sunflowers at that time.
After the first difficult two years which saw the passing away of two members and a loss on production, the remaining members decided to introduce citrus.
The 61.5-hectare farm currently has 16 000 citrus trees.
“Of this, only 21 is under production.
Setlhako said that although in around 2014 until 2017, the production was in the teething stage, their dream was slowly gaining momentum.
The North West Department of Agriculture and Rural Development assisted the business on two occasions with at least R800 000 in each of those years.
The cooperative used the funds to improve their irrigation system and to structure their office space as well as taking care of logistics.
“We placed in the irrigation system and from there we never looked back. We have been receiving technical advice from the department and we are comfortable with the strides we have from such assistance,” Moilwa said.
They are also part of the Citrus Growers Association which generally supports members to be globally competitive.
To date, the company has employed 10 workers permanently and over 70 seasonal staff members. The seasonal workers are divided into the local and export market workers. Their workforce includes a seasoned farm manager whom the cooperative commissioned to create a structure for the company and take it to international platforms. Their journey was faced with challenges however they did not despair.
”\We were ready to export in 2018 but we could not get a packhouse so our products ended in the local markets including SIR Fruit and Magalies Citrus Company. We were determined to break through and as such, we did manage to get a pack-house. So far we have managed to deliver seven containers and we hope to deliver more the end of the harvest season. Much as this is a milestone, this family cooperative has big dreams in as far as developing their business is concerned. They would like to increase the exportable trees in their other available land. They would also like to own a packhouse which they believe is a need.
“Pack-house will cut a lot of costs and eventually lead to us employing possibly over 200 people. We would like to make that great contribution to job creation and that is what many companies are looking forward to these days.
North West MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Desbo Mohono remains impressed by the orchard after visiting in the past few weeks. She has encouraged the team to work even harder and grow its global market. Mohono said she would wish to see many farmers tapping on the same knowledge and expanding their territories.
Despite the water leak challenges that are in their current space as well as the transport to their leased packhouse, Batlhako Temo is determined to make it big in the industry. The fact that they are first to enter the market makes them prepared to work and share ideas with other farmers. They are due to host a farmer’s information day in November this year as part of their effort to share ideas with other farmers.