From left to right: Samson Qomondi, Johan du Preez, Joseph Hlongo, and Jonas Mogale
Mariveni Farm is a communally owned farm on the outskirts of Letsitele near Tzaneen. Samson Qomondi is the General Manager at Mariveni as well as the PDI North Director on the CGA Board. He was joined in the interview by Joseph Hlongo, Section Manager for citrus, Jonas Mogale, Security and Logistics Manager and Johan du Preez, the Production Manager.
Mariveni Farm has 24 owners, 13 of which work on the farm while others have either retired or passed away. The farm has 145ha of citrus and 72ha of bananas. The farm’s history dates back to October 1974 and was initiated by the Bantu Investment Corporation. It has had issues with accessing funding since then, but due to assistance from Du Roi Precision Farming amongst others, the co-operative was operating on its own as a single farming unit by 2011.
Samson explains the developments over the past five years:
“In 2011 we were exporting through Lona and had planned to continue to do so. Unfortunately, in November 2012 we were hit by a severe hail storm and we lost between 65-70% of our crop to the value of around R9.1 million. This had a serious impact on our income and consequences for the future of our project. The quality of the remaining fruit for that season (2013) was not good enough to export and so we had to sell what was left of the harvest, both citrus and bananas, to a local juicing plant. The returns that we received from this were very low.”
“We did a crop estimate before the next harvest in 2014 and submitted this to Lona, requesting a production loan from them for the harvest. We received the loan and during that year we again exported through them. Our trees had taken a beating from the hail in 2012, and we only produced 131 000 cartons for the 2014 season while production in a normal year would have been around 270 000 cartons. We were battling to make ends meet with this considerably reduced income but fortunately we had the banana harvest to supplement our income. As shareholders we had a meeting to discuss our survival strategy going forward, as we realised we had to find a strategic partner to assist us as we would not survive on our own.”
Towards the end of 2014 the shareholders approached the Boyes Group. The Group were willing to assist and have provided funding for production inputs and development capital ever since. After establishing a joint venture with the Boyes Group Mariveni went from being a co-operative to a company, which is now called Lizilor (Pty) Ltd. The conversion was completed in 2015 and since then things have progressed smoothly. 235 000 cartons were produced in the 2015 season, a big improvement on the small crops of the previous years, and the fruit is now exported through FruitOne, the fruit marketing company affiliated with the Boyes Group.
“The Boyes Group provides us with production inputs, and we make use of their farming implements such as tractors, spray carts and picking trailers, as well as their picking teams to bring in the harvest. We are grateful for the assistance that we are receiving from them, and are now able to implement production practices when they are required, as there is no longer a shortage of resources which previously delayed the process beyond the ideal timing for its implementation.”
Government provided 15km mesh fence to enclose the property for security, and to prevent theft and damage to the crops by livestock. Crop protection chemicals to the value of R500 000, fertilizer to the value of R500 000 and electricity, also to the value of R500 000, as well as 200 litres of GF 120, the crop protection chemical needed to spray for fruit fly, were also provided.
“These inputs from the government have been a great help to us and we are very grateful for this assistance.”
Mariveni has a further 100ha of unplanted land that could be developed in the future, as well as enough water to irrigate the land.
“We plan to plant all of this in the next few years and are already starting with this. We are planning to plant 32ha of Tangos during next year and are currently de-bushing the land where we plan to plant the Tango orchards.”
“Although it is very dry at the moment, under normal circumstances we have enough water for this proposed development. Government has indicated that they will help us to upgrade our old storage dam. We are waiting for this to happen and once this is completed we will have enough water for this development.”
“From when we thought that Mariveni was finished after the hail, things are looking good and we have the Boyes Group to thank for their much-needed assistance.”