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ECDC injects R3.357 Million into OR Tambo potato cooperatives

Apr 11, 2019
ECDC injects R3.357 Million into OR Tambo potato cooperatives

OR Tambo potato farmers supported through ECDC and Potato South Africa

Mthatha - The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (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 incentive has been spread over a three-year period and it is being used to buy fertilisers, seeds and pesticides and for the hiring of 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.

“Already the support is bearing fruit. The Vukamntomtsha Agricultural Co-operative at KwaLink Village 15kms west of Mthatha has improved potato production to 18 000 bags in its 2019 harvest because of the incentive as well as technical and market access support provided by Potatoes South Africa and the Ntinga OR Tambo Development Agency Kei Fresh Produce Market respectively," says ECDC chief executive Ndzondelelo Dlulane.

"New cultivars of seeds are being introduced by Potatoes South Africa in an attempt to increase the potato yields of these co-operatives in order to ensure that potatoes are produced within the region.

“For the period January 2018 to March 2019 Kei Fresh Produce Market received 1,245 tons of potatoes. Of this amount, only 142 tons is from O.R Tambo farmers.

"We need to reverse these figures and get to a situation where OR Tambo produces the majority of its 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."

ECDC provided funding while Potatoes South Africa provided mentorship

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 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 Agency has 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 all inputs to the seven co-operatives, Potatoes South Africa provided mentorship and technical support to all these co-operatives to ensure their sustainabilty," says Xaba.

"It is heartwarming to see how some of the beneficiaries have grown and developed a huge interest in not only farming with potatoes for susbsistance but to farm commercially. Through such partneships we can guarantee that the goal of establishing Black potato commercial farmers will be realised in the not so distant future."

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 instil 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 says.

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