The Eastern Cape Development Corporation-administered Imvaba Co-operative Fund says it has allocated an R3,357 million incentive to seven co-operatives to boost potato production in the OR Tambo District Municipality (ORTDM).
The incentive has been spread over a three-year period and will be used to buy fertilisers, seeds and pesticides and for the hire of production equipment for the cooperatives.
Support for the potato industry aims to boost local production and the regional economy.
Potatoes are the most consumed product in the ORTDM which means an estimated R10 billion leaves the region every year. This is because 95% of potatoes in the ORTDM 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.
“New cultivars of seeds are being introduced by Potatoes South Africa in an attempt to increase the potato yields of these cooperatives to ensure that potatoes are produced within the region.
“From January 2018 to March 2019, the Kei Fresh Produce Market received 1,245 tons of potatoes. Of this amount, only 142 tons originated from OR 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,” says ECDC chief executive Ndzondelelo Dlulane.
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 cooperatives 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, OR 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 cooperatives, Potatoes South Africa provided mentorship and technical support to all these cooperatives to ensure their sustainability.
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.