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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

Bearing fruit beyond beer: SAB turns lemons into limes

South African Breweries (SAB) injected R19 million to Limpopo lime farming project.

A lime deficit’s hindrance to a sunset beer drinking ritual gave rise to a blossoming community project – and a lifetime supply of limes.

South African Breweries (SAB) recently harvested the first fruit of its partnership with the Moletele Communal Property Association (Moletele Community) and the Komati Fruit Group.

Nearly four years ago, the parties entered into a partnership which entailed the leasing of Moletele Community’s 60-hectare Richmond Farm to Komati Fruit for the growing of limes. SAB injected R19 million to get the project off the ground.

Fast-forward to 2024, the Richmond Farm is home to more than 34,000 lime trees and 12 permanent employees. Meanwhile, the first full harvest in 2023, produced 1.1 million limes.

But, how did it all begin?

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When life gives you lemons

The legend goes; South Africa’s lime shortage was a stumbling block for Corona drinkers, preventing full enjoyment of the premium beer – which is apparently best enjoyed with a wedge of lime, a significant part of Corona’s ‘drinking ritual.’

“A few years back, we [realised] that we had a shortage of limes in the country… our consumers could’t enjoy Corona in its true sense,” SAB Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Zoleka Lisa told The Citizen.

While most drinkers chose to simply go without the tinge of citrus, others opted to use lemon as a substitute. Although similar, the flavour profiles of the lemon and lime aren’t the same – so the substitution couldn’t make up for the shortage.

SAB’s pressing need to solve the scarcity of the citrus fruit pushed the brewery to embark on a mission to grow thousands of lime trees.

“It was an opportunity to then say, should we not localise the production of limes?”

Beyond providing seed funding for the project, SAB has an offtake agreement with the Moletele Community, to buy a guaranteed number of limes per harvest.

Zoleka Lisa, SAB Vice President of Corporate Affairs said the scarcity of limes presented an opportunity to produce the citrus fruit locally. Image: Vukosi Maluleke

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Another project brewing?

Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, Moletele Communal Property Association Chairperson, Albert Thabane thanked the Minister of Agriculture, Thoko Didiza for the community’s successful land claim.

“We’re very much happy that your government gave us our land back and our people are benefiting from the land,” Thabane said.

Albert Thabane, chairperson of the Moletele Communal Property Association was thrilled at the success of the project. Image: Vukosi Maluleke

The Moletele Community was granted ownership of the farm in 2017, and has since been leasing it to Komati Fruit Group.

“As the Moletele Community, we are proud to be custodians of this land and we believe that strategic partnerships such as this are critical for the profitable use and longevity of our farming operations,” Thabane said.

He then challenged SAB to take their relationship to the next level – by bringing the Corona brewery to Moletele.

“If you still want more land, you can come and [build] a factory that will produce the same Corona here,” said Thabane to SAB leadership.

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‘Go back to your chiefs’

Minister Didiza said the Mopani region was well positioned to house a brewing plant.

“You’ve heard the offer, Corona produced in Mopani. Which I kind of like,” Didiza said during her speech at the launch.

“We’ve got the [right] climate in Mopani. We’ve got an airport in Hoedspruit … We’ve got water.”

“So you can go back to your chiefs and say let’s look at putting the Corona plant where the lime is,” she said to SAB’s executive leadership.

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza visited the Richmond Farm in Limpopo on Wednesday. Image: Vukosi Maluleke

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