Citizen Reporter
2 minute read
12 Aug 2018
3:31 pm

Vrede dairy project could milk R65m more from the state – report

Citizen Reporter

The project's additional funding could be incurred by way of a turnaround plan for the farm that is still losing millions.

File image: Dairy cows on the Vrede dairy farm in the Free State. Picture: Neil McCartney

The Vrede dairy project, which already cost taxpayers R220 million allegedly for the benefit of the Gupta family, could cost another R65 million, the Sunday Times reports.

A turnaround strategy involves investing millions into buildings and infrastructure. This after more than 500 cows went missing from the farm.

It is reported that locals who were meant to gain from the project, including consultants, said something was wrong with the running of the farm by the Free State Development Corp (FDC) and subcontractor E’tsho Holdings.

Since 2014 E’tsho Holdings has managed the farm.

It is further reported that Atul Gupta pocketed R10 million through the project and that the controversial Gupta family splurged money from the project on private jets and luxury vehicles.

The farm was meant to be shared among 81 local beneficiaries who were meant to own 51% of it, with the balance, which was transferred to the FDC, being owned by Estina.

The farm managers, E’tsho Holdings, are reportedly being paid millions.

According to a turnaround plan presented in March, during the 2015/16 period, the farm made R6.6 million. However, between April and December 2017, the farm operated on R18 million.

The Sunday Times reports that cows yielded a quarter of their milk production and that out of 359 cattle 211 could be milked.

189 cows are missing from the ones bought by the Free State agriculture department in 2014 for the FDC.

The total number of animals that have gone missing has increased to 510 since 2014.

The project’s additional R65 million could be incurred by way of a turnaround plan that includes increasing the herd and using arable land to grow feed, among others. It is yet to be approved by the provincial legislature.

It is reported that those who were meant to benefit from the project are unhappy about the situation, with some claiming that they had been driven into poverty by those behind the project.

Another intended beneficiary told the publication he had waited six years to gain from the project.

The weekly reports that the CEO of the FDC said a response to inquiries about the matter would be sent next week.

The publication could not obtain responses from E’tsho Holdings and the spokesperson of Free State economic development.

The Free State premier’s spokesperson reportedly said the premier was collaborating with stakeholders to ensure beneficiaries gained from the project.