Minister Didiza praises Tiger Brands’ female-owned aggregator farms initiative

Historically, some of the greatest challenges that face black smallholder farmers is access to funding, infrastructure and technology. Tiger Brands is transforming its supply chain and supporting inclusive growth by developing and supporting nascent black- and female-owned SMMEs within the agriculture sector, as part of its enterprise development mandate.

Lusanda Moletsane is the owner of Khumo Ea Tsabo (KET), an agricultural company that was onboarded to Tiger Brands’ agri-aggregator programme in late 2020 and supported with R10.5 million which included a low-interest loan and technical support funding as part of Tiger Brands’ Enterprise and Supplier Development programme (ESD), to supply the food manufacturer with small white beans by mid-2021. 

Working together with Nic Basson, an agronomist advisor and mentor, Moletsane’s 16 years of experience as a turnaround specialist is already starting to pay off as her two farming clusters in Nigel and Bronkhorstspruit cover 10 000 ha and include 10 farmers – four of whom are black women.

At the start of her first harvest, she is expected to supply two tonnes per hectare of Tiger Brands’ small white beans.

On Thursday May 13, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, together with Tiger Brands’ CEO Noel Doyle, visited the farming cluster in Nigel, Ekurhuleni, to witness this initiative by the food manufacturing company to help transform South Africa’s agricultural sector.

Speaking at the event, minister Didiza said access to land, water, research and technology, infrastructure and market information are all critical for agriculture to succeed.

She said this partnership was critical because of the offtake agreements that they offer to farmers who are in production.

“Farming for the market is very critical because it helps farmers avoid post-harvest losses as they may not know where to sell their produce. So, with such agreements in place, they are able to get more income which they can plough back into their fields, support their households or use to initiate other enterprises,” said Didiza.

The minister elaborated that another important factor about this aggregate propellor system is that they can help the farmer “…not only from an uptake point of view that they will buy your goods, but that they also provide the necessary capital and the technical skills relevant for the choice of commodity the farmer has gone into… so it offers sustainability and certainty for the farmer and removes the headache of where to sell the produce.”

For us, as government, said minister Didiza, it is critical because we don’t have all the necessary skills to support farmers.

“… we may offer land and grants, but we don’t have the human resource capability to be there at all times and that’s why partners are important to ensure that collectively we can grow the sector.”

Tiger Brands’ Chief Executive Officer Noel Doyle said that if all institutions in South Africa themselves in the right space from a mindset perspective, great things can be achieved.

“Today, we are on a farm that is part of government’s land distribution programme, with an aggregator who has produced an economic model that really works alongside an agri-processor like Tiger Brands that helps in the financing of this venture and also, procuring the product. It’s a case of everybody holding hands together,” said the CEO.

Doyle said that by supporting such projects and spreading it amongst women farmers “ we are adding to the economic emancipation of women farmers, we are liberating women to take control of their own destiny”.

He said the programme aims to bring more young people into farming.

Mzansi Agriculture Talk sought further clarity from the CEO on this great initiative to transform the country’s agriculture sector.

Doyle said the programme is geographically spread in various provinces across the country and will in future involve other crops, such as maize, sorghum and ground nuts for all famers.

“We work across the country. We have other projects in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Historically, we would try to identify farmers ourselves, but we didn’t have the resources, the skillset and the capability to manage the scale of these projects. So, by working through an aggregator, we removed that the day-to-day running and we have now moved to a position where we can step back and say not only will we take the product from you, but we will help you with financing so that you can take farming in South Africa, and black farmers particularly, out of the subsistence model to create a real powerful commercial enterprise,” he said.

Mzansi Agriculture Talk further enquired if participating farmers are given evergreen contracts by the food manufacturing giant and whether in the absence of such agreements, there’s an exit strategy in place to ensure farmers are able to continue making livelihoods outside of their partnership with Tiger Brands.

The CEO said the products and produce that are farmed “here” are not only specific or marketable to Tiger Brands.

“We are not tying people into only supply us; however, we would like it to be evergreen in a sense that we’d love to see it grow from 10 farmers to 100 farmers, and if working with Lusanda and her team is the vehicle that would help us achieve that, we’d be happy to grow it to 100 or even 1 000 farmers,” said Doyle.

He continued: “It’s really about mutuality. It’s not a parent-child relationship where there’s a dominant partner, it’s something that works for everybody. It’s not a Tiger Brands’ charitable donation, but really good business for all of us. We get a great product at a market price and at the same time, we get to move society forward.”

Doyle remains extremely happy with the product quality being delivered by Moletsane and her team.

Litha Kutta, Tiger Brands’ Enterprise and Supplier Development Director, said a small farmer with a 100-ha farm, or even a 1 000-ha farm, would never be able to supply a pan-African food manufacturer such as Tiger Brands, especially when one considers the tonnage required to supply their demand.

Kutta said through the aggregator programme, they are able to empower small farmers with supported access to the formal agricultural market.

Moletsane said she has been acquainted with far too many farmers who live and work on a hand-to-mouth basis.

“My motivation is to help others build sustainable businesses and join the mainstream economy within the agricultural sector. I’ve seen the struggle to commercialise land that has been transferred to previously disadvantaged South Africans, I want to help these farmers run lucrative farms that generate enough money to cover their operating expenses and become profitable businesses that will grow in the future,” she said.

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