Development corporation injects R3 357 million into potato producers

From the left: ECDC chief executive officer Ndzondelelo Dlulane, Potatoes South Africa transformation manager Nomvula Xaba, OR Tambo district municipality executive mayor Nomakhosazana Meth, and Ntinga OR Tambo development agency board chairperson Sitembele Mase at the Potato farmers day in Mthatha today.

The Eastern Cape Development Corporation’s (ECDC) administered Imvaba co-operative fund says it has allocated a R3.357 million incentive to seven co-operatives to boost potato production in the OR Tambo district municipality. 

The fund has been spread over a three-year period and is being used to buy fertiliser, seed and pesticides and to hire production equipment for the co-operatives. Support for the potato industry is meant to boost local production and the regional economy. Potatoes are the most consumed product in the OR Tambo district municipality which means an estimated R10 billion leaves the region every year. This is because 95% of potatoes in the OR Tambo district municipality are sourced from other regions – 55% from neighbouring districts Joe Gqabi and Kokstad/Underberg, and 40% from Gauteng, Northern Cape, Free State and the Western Cape. 

The support is bearing fruit. The Vukamntomtsha agricultural co-operative at KwaLink village 15kms west of Mthatha has produced 18 000 bags this season because of the incentive, technical support and market access provided by Potatoes South Africa and the Ntinga OR Tambo development agency Kei Fresh Produce Market. New seed cultivars are being introduced by Potatoes South Africa in an attempt to increase the yields of these co-operatives to ensure that potatoes are produced in the region,” said Ndzondelelo Dlulane, ECDC chief executive. 

From January last year to March this year, Kei Fresh Produce Market received 1 245 tons of potatoes. Of this amount, only 142 tons is from OR Tambo farmers. We need to reverse these figures and get to a situation where OR Tambo produces most of the potatoes in the region. The co-operatives are Vukamntomtsha agricultural primary co-operative, Ngethemba agricultural primary co-operative, Mampingeni general suppliers and Multi-purpose primary co-operative, Living Dreams Farming primary co-operative, Lusikisiki Potato Farming primary co-operative, Xhamla Mzantsi farming co-operative as well as Masiphakamise Ulimo agricultural primary co-operative,” said Dlulane. 

The Kei Fresh Produce Market visits these farmers advising them on standards in line with market requirements in terms of grading, packaging and pricing. Kei Fresh Produce Market’s further support for these co-operatives exists in the form of an industrial potato washing machine which helps support value addition for their products. 

Potatoes South Africa’s transformation manager Nomvula Xaba says the joint efforts of partners,such as the Kei Fresh Produce Market, O.R Tambo district municipality, Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Small Enterprise Development Agency and Ntinga O.R Tambo Development Agencyhave ensured that a large part of the region becomes food secure. 

“They have also gained some knowledge in terms of potato farming. While the ECDC provided funds for  inputs to the seven co-operatives, Potatoes South Africa provided mentorship and technical support to all these co-operatives to ensure their sustainabilty,” said Xaba. 

It is heartwarming to see how some of the beneficiaries have grown and developed a huge interest in not only farming potatoes for susbsistance but to farm commercially. Through such partnerships we can guarantee that the goal of establishing black commercial potato farmers will be realised in the not too distant future,” Xaba added. 

Ntinga OR Tambo Development Agency Board chairperson Sitembele Mase says the establishment of the Kei Fresh Produce Market provides a lucrative market access platform for emerging potato producers in the district. This should assist local products permeate the entire potato industry value chain. 

“While Ntinga extends support to individual farmers, the agency encourages the establishment of formal structures such as co-operatives in order to instill and institutionalise a business culture in farming among subsistence and emerging famers. This allows members to leverage their individual expertise for sustainability and viability,” Mase said. – Media release