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There is no doubt that South African citrus will overcome the crisis created by COVID-19. This is the view of newly elected chairperson of the South African Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA), Cornel van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe succeeds outgoing chair Ben Vorster, a prominent citrus grower from Letsitele in the north of the country.

He is currently marketing and packaging director at Komati Fruit, a leading citrus and subtropical producer and exporter, and has served in various senior management positions in the citrus sector for more than ten years, as well as on the CGA board for eight years.

Maintaining a competitive position

“The global health crisis caused by COVID-19 may prove to be a temporary obstacle to our growth, but I have no doubt that we will overcome it,” says Van der Merwe. “As food producers, we have a responsibility to both our country and international consumers to supply food. More importantly, we have a responsibility to ensure the job security of all our workers, especially during a period of global crisis.”

However, he does admit that it will take a long time for South Africa to recover from the coronavirus outbreak. “The CGA needs to make sure that it plays a leading role in ensuring we overcome this crisis successfully, and in a manner that continues to help grow our local economy. I’m confident that with the leadership of our organisation, even the most difficult challenges will be conquered, and that we will maintain our competitive position in the global citrus sector.”

Members of the executive team

The changes at the CGA involve the election of a whole new executive team for the next two years.

Its board comprises 20 directors, representing 15 grower regions. There are two directors who represent emerging farmers in the northern and southern regions, a director of government relations and a director who heads up the finance and risk review committee.

According to the association, outgoing chairperson Ben Vorster will remain as vice-chairperson to ensure continuity.

Hannes de Waal, managing director of the Sundays River Citrus Company (SRCC), fills the second vice-chairperson position, and is expected to take over as chairperson of the board in two years.

Cape citrus industry leaders George Hall and Gerrit van der Merwe have been elected to serve in the two executive member positions.

Growing the economy

“The citrus industry is expected to export a record 143,3 million cartons in 2020 and is anticipated to grow by a further 500 000 tons over the next three years,” the CGA stated.

“We faced a lot of challenges over the past two years, which we mostly managed to overcome,” Vorster noted. “The industry, along with our other stakeholders, needs to work even more closely together to help our country. We need to play our part in growing the economy and ensuring our labour force remains safe.” – Fruitnet