ANC tries its hand at ar­ti­choke farm­ing

CityPress - - News - MARYNA LAMPRECHT news@city­press.co.za

NEW TRADE

The ANC sees Dakawa farm as the per­fect base for SA to be­come a player in the global ar­ti­choke mar­ket Next time you or­der ar­ti­chokes on your pizza, par­tic­u­larly in Jo­han­nes­burg, you may have the ANC to thank for the plea­sure.

The gov­ern­ing party is us­ing the farm, from which it will even­tu­ally run its po­lit­i­cal school, to cor­ner the mar­ket in ar­ti­chokes.

Italy, Spain and Egypt are the world’s largest pro­duc­ers of the edi­ble flower, but the ANC is work­ing with farm­ers in the Vre­de­fort Dome area near Parys, in the Free State to chal­lenge the es­tab­lish­ment.

If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, the val­ley will pro­duce 300 tons of ar­ti­chokes in the year ahead and hold its first ar­ti­choke fes­ti­val.

The ANC bought the farm, then called Buf­felshoek, on the banks of the Vaal River in 2010.

City Press re­ported ear­lier this year that the party was ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party over fund­ing for the po­lit­i­cal school.

For now, it’s grow­ing pecan nuts, ar­ti­chokes, vegetables and herbs with ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Zweli Mkhize keep­ing a close eye on the work.

Dakawa man­ager Derrick Glee­son said the ar­ti­chokes were flour­ish­ing be­cause the soil and cli­mate were ideal.

“In the past year, we pro­duced close on 60 tons of ar­ti­chokes, which we sold to restau­rants in Jo­han­nes­burg and pizza chains,” Glee­son said.

“There is a huge de­mand, but we don’t have the space for more plants. We have ap­proached farm­ers in the area so that more peo­ple can ben­e­fit from this gold mine.”

Glee­son has given be­tween 50 and 100 plants to five farm­ers in the area with the in­ten­tion of buy­ing the re­sult­ing ar­ti­chokes, and pro­cess­ing, pack­ag­ing and sell­ing them to restau­rants.

“There is huge growth in the South African mar­ket at the mo­ment. Many farm­ers in the area want to be part of the project. We can all get rich to­gether.”

The ANC also wants to build a fac­tory where ar­ti­chokes can be canned and bot­tled so that they can be dis­trib­uted all over the coun­try or ex­ported across the globe.

“Why should we con­tinue im­port­ing ar­ti­chokes when we have the ideal con­di­tions for cul­ti­vat­ing them?” Glee­son asked. Stephen Theron (55) has a farm about 5km from Dakawa, where he farms cat­tle and Arab horses. He is one of five farm­ers who re­ceived plants from Glee­son.

“The plants are ex­tremely well suited to the very sandy soil in this area,” he said.

“They are highly sought after and ex­pen­sive. It’s almost like craft beer – every­body now wants ar­ti­chokes.”

Theron says ar­ti­chokes have a niche mar­ket with great po­ten­tial and is con­vinced the Vre­de­fort Dome area can even­tu­ally be­come “the ar­ti­choke val­ley of the world”.

He is also en­thu­si­as­tic about the ANC’s in­volve­ment in the project.

“They could ac­tu­ally have done it them­selves, but they wanted to get more peo­ple in­volved. This is a very good ini­tia­tive. They want to kick-start the in­dus­try here.”

PHOTO: MARY-ANN PALMER

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