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May 08, 2008

South African agro-processing company assists new maize farmers

JSE-listed agricultural processing company Tongaat Hulett has officially launched its Ithuba farming project, which started at the end of last year, to increase the number of black commercial maize farmers in South Africa.

The project is a broad-based black economic-empowerment partnership between Tongaat Hulett and an organisation that supports economic development initiatives in the agricultural sector, the Buhle Farmers' Academy.

"Tongaat Hulett is one of the largest buyers of maize in South Africa and the Ithuba farming project presented us with an ideal opportunity to assist with the development of black maize farmers and thereby ensure that the pool of farmers supplying our mills increases," commented Tongaat Hulett CEO Peter Staude.

The company established a fully equipped farm at one of its starch operating facilities, the Kliprivier Mill, at the end of last year, where ten trainee farmers had been involved in a number of aspects of commercial farming, such as planning and budgeting, soil sampling and preparation, weed control, labour activities, and general farm management, under supervision of Academy staff.

"The partnership links the skills of the new farmers, provided by the Academy, with commercial practise of these skills on Tongaat Hulett's land. The students have now proved themselves capable of embarking on their own agricultural enterprises and are ready to move onto land, negotiate production loans and farm competitively in their own right," commented Buhle Farmers' Academy director Neir de Smidt.

Staude added that Tongaat Hulett acknowledged the role it had to play in land reform and skills development in its area of operation. He added that its medium-scale farm programme had, to date, resulted in the transfer of 98 farms, which comprised 11 871 ha of land, to previously disadvantaged farmers.

The company would continue to engage with the Department of Land Affairs on a regional and national basis, to understand what it role in land reform could be. It would also continue to look at getting involved with skills development opportunities in its areas of operation.

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