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September 30, 2008

South Africa to cultivate disease-resistant pumpkins

Disease-resistant pumpkins and pumpkin seeds will be cultivated in South Africa at a new, R10- million plant being built near Oudtshoorn as part of a Dutch-funded project which will also empower emerging farmers.

The project was initiated by Klein Karoo Seed (KKS) and its Dutch affiliate, Bakker Brothers, in conjunction with a Dutch governmental development agency, says Lomo van Rensburg, manager of the seed marketing group. He said Bakker Brothers and KKS had presented the project plan to development agency EDV, which works mainly in developing countries.

As a result, EDV would build the plant, possibly before the end of the year, and would also fund the cultivation project while Klein Karoo Seed would provide land for the building and greenhouse.

Van Rensburg said what was needed was five hectares of irrigation land. “We invite farmers and land owners who have suitable land for our project to approach us with a view to selling.”

He said the plant would comprise a laboratory and facilities to clean, dry and store the pumpkin seeds. It would include a training centre and administrative buildings. The plant and greenhouse would each be 1000m² in area.

“People ask us why pumpkins. Pumpkins are healthy and contain vitamins A, C and E, as well as beta-keratone, which fights free radicals in the body. They‘re ideal for Africa because of their longevity. We want to cultivate a pumpkin that has a unique resistance to viruses and other diseases. Once that is achieved, we want to distribute the seeds in South Africa, Africa, Australia and South America.”

In the first three years of cultivating pumpkins, some 60 jobs would be created, he said. Once the project was in full production, further job opportunities would become available. In addition, emerging farmers would receive free training in cultivating the seeds.

Project manager Pierre Maritz said construction was expected to begin by the end of the year.

The Herald

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