Traditionally one of the main challenges faced by the emerging farming sector across the world is a lack of access to markets. Emerging farmers on the KZN south coast, however, need no longer worry about where to sell their produce. For the first time they will have direct access to a major fresh produce market through the establishment of the Ugu Fresh Produce Market Packhouse and Processing Plant.
The aim of this state-of-the-art facility is to add value to small farmers’ produce by sorting, grading, washing and packing it according to customers’ needs. The facility will also serve as a driver for the market in the district’s agricultural sector, as agents will provide information to emerging farmers regarding crops to be planted, based on demand.
For these emerging farmers, the days of being told by market managers and agents that their produce does not meet the standard to be sold on the floor, may be over.
A R2,9 million grant from the European Union-funded Gijima KZN support programme and allocation of land valued at R 2,5 million by the Hibiscus Coast Municipality has seen the completion of the first phase of the project.
While the packhouse is still under construction, its cold storage facility is fully functional and has begun storing fresh produce from one agent, with a second agent having recently been secured.
The facility is also equipped with retail stalls on site.
Thamsanqa Khwela, market manager of the packhouse, said the facility is the first of its kind and will finally give small, emerging farmers the opportunity to produce more and have the opportunity to sell in the mainstream market.
Negotiations are already under way to secure the second tranche of funding for the project, which will see the establishment of an agri-processing plant as a value recovery facility, together with collection depots at strategic points in the emerging farmers’ geographical areas.