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July 18, 2007

South African community trust becomes avocado exporter

Avocado growers from the Matsafeni Trust outside Nelspruit, Mpumalanga have become the first emerging farmers in South Africa to qualify to export their fruit to the UK and Europe. The farm has been awarded with EurepGAP accreditation, allowing them to increase export volumes.

The land on which they farm was transferred to the Matsafeni and Mdluli clans in 2003, following a land restitution claim. The returned land was 6,000 hectares, of which 2,000 hectares is utilised for farming avocado and other fruit.

At first some orchards were leased to the previous owners, HL Hall and Sons, allowing the claimants to develop farming and management skills. Sello Mdluli, the manager at the Matsafeni and Mdluli farm, says,"I was lucky to be directly involved at the Hall and Sons pack house, where I learned how to handle the fruits."

EurepGAP sets global standards for agricultural products. Attaining the accreditation called for hard work. The farm had to meet criteria ranging from chemicals used, irrigation, harvesting, packaging and grading the fruit. Worker health and safety measures were also part of the criteria.

Mark Baker, the export director at HL Hall and Sons, says,"It opens up the market tremendously both overseas and locally for us because none of the European super markets will accept any product that is not EurepGAP accredited."

The farm hopes to export up to 800 tonnes.


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