EC farm­ers cream­ing it by shar­ing

Fresh in­put of R32m boosts jobs, milk out­put

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - Joseph Booy­sen

IN­VEST­MENT in a R32 mil­lion dairy par­lour in Tsit­sikamma by the East­ern Cape gov­ern­ment is set to greatly ben­e­fit the lives of a ru­ral com­mu­nity up­rooted from their an­ces­tral land at the height of the Group Ar­eas Act.

The state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity was opened on Thurs­day by East­ern Cape Depart­ment of Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Agrar­ian Re­form MEC Mlibo Qo­boshiyane. As a re­sult, the Wit­tek­lei­bosch dairy farm in Tsit­sikamma has in­creased milk pro­duc­tion to 16 000 litres a day, boost­ing an­nual turnover to R31m while pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment for 40 peo­ple.

The Wit­tek­lei­bosch farm where the fa­cil­ity is lo­cated was the first land to be re­turned to the vic­tims of the Group Ar­eas Act. They were the first land claimants to re­ceive their land in 1994.

As part of the depart­ment’s on­go­ing pro­gramme to com­mer­cialise the prov­ince’s agri­cul­ture in the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year, R32m was in­jected to con­struct a new dairy par­lour with ma­chin­ery milk­ing about 66 cows at a go and yield­ing the own­ers 16 000 litres of milk daily, which is sold to dairy prod­uct pro­ducer Par­malat.

Qo­boshiyane said there has been too much talk about the trans­for­ma­tion of South Africa’s econ­omy, with lit­tle or no ac­tual ac­tion.

“Pro­grammes like this one, where the gov­ern­ment in­vested some of its money into the land owned by land claimants, who part­ner with a white farmer and sell their milk to a com­mer­cial com­pany, shows the beau­ti­ful re­sults we get when we trans­form the econ­omy,” said Qo­boshiyane.

Dur­ing the height of apartheid, about 152 AmaMfengu fam­i­lies from Tsit­sikamma were force­fully re­moved from their land, which in­cluded the 650 hectare Wit­tek­lei­bosch farm and sur­round­ing farms.

Since the land was handed back to the af­fected fam­i­lies in 1994, they formed a part­ner­ship with dairy farmer Jo­han du Plessis to con­tinue dairy farm­ing in the area, form­ing a com­mer­cial trad­ing en­tity known as the Wit­tek­lei­bosch De­vel­op­ment Trust.

In the part­ner­ship the Ama Mfengu con­trib­uted with their land, ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture and dairy par­lour ma­chin­ery while Kleikamma Trust, owed by Du Plessis, con­trib­uted with its tech­ni­cal skills and cat­tle.

Du Plessis said in an ear­lier in­ter­view that the farm pro­duces roughly about 6.5 mil­lion litres of milk a year through the dairy, milk­ing about 1 000 cows on av­er­age, which is sold to Par­malat.

“We started here 15 years ago with the share milk­ing busi­ness. We sup­ply the an­i­mals and im­ple­ments and they (ben­e­fi­cia­ries) give the land and fa­cil­i­ties like this (milk­ing par­lour). We have been go­ing on for a long time on a 50/50 base and two years ago we changed to a 60/40 per­cent base where they got a 60 per­cent in­ter­est and we got 40 per­cent in­ter­est as com­mer­cial farm­ers.”

Du Plessis said the for­ward out­look for the fa­cil­ity is that it will be able to milk 1 500 cows and a pro­duc­tion of 7.5 mil­lion litres of milk a year.

One of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries, Zilindile Blouw, said: “To­day it’s thanks­giv­ing day, as we show our grate­ful­ness to our gov­ern­ment, which has helped us to achieve our dreams. Our dream now is to move from be­ing part­ners to the next level of be­ing com­mer­cial farm­ers. We will make sure this fa­cil­ity will never be a white ele­phant. We will work to keep it op­er­at­ing.”

Wit­tek­lei­bosch Dairy Trust farm worker Mercy Bham­batha shows East­ern Cape Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Agrar­ian Re­form MEC Mlibo Qo­boshiyane how to milk dairy cows at the Wit­tek­lei­bosch farm.

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