Ferreira Endulini Fruit: Harvesting a fairer deal

South Africa’s fruit farming industry is littered with history and increasingly has become a tourist trap on account of the picturesque scenery. One such place is Patensie, the last stop before entering the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area. Guarded by the majestic Cockscomb mountain, this little town’s activities revolve around the nation’s citrus industry. Very much at the forefront of citrus produce, locally-based Ferreira Endulini Fruit has become one of the country’s leading farms and one of its pioneers of the global Fair Trade initiative.grocery-thesamag

The region takes its name from 1876, when the farm “Patentie” of 3,000 morgen was awarded to David Keyser jnr. In 1852 the farm was sud-divided and in 1858 Patensie was declared a town. The name Patensie has a Hottentot origin and means “lêplek van die beeste” (where the cattle lie). At first, because all of Patensie was privately owned, town development was difficult and the Citrus and Tobacco co-ops had to develop their own residential areas.

The first oranges were exported in 1907 by Mr Bean and in 1929 the Patensie Citrus Co-operative was founded. The first packing facility was built in 1937. The Co-op is today known as the PSB company and is the biggest citrus packing facility in the area. Export citrus is the main crop of the Patensie area, with the season running from April to October.

Endulini Fruit (Pty) Ltd. was formed in April 2001 by SP Ferreira and his family. He had in fact farmed since 1953 with land he had inherited from his father and subsequently bought more land making Endulini one of the biggest farming units within the Gamtoos Valley.

Today SP still manages the company, although his two sons Pietie and Eppie Ferreira play a key role in decision-making. Collectively the trio are responsible for a number of farms and separate ventures which encompass: Endulini Fruit, Galactic Deals Farms, Endulini Fruit Swanepoelskraal, Endulinik Sundays River Fruit, Endulini Summerville Fruit, Endulini Fruit Hitgeheim and Endulini Vaalkloof.

In addition to the fruit growing operations, the family also runs Endulini Transport and Midlands Logistics. The transport arm consists of a new fleet of Scania and Man’s vehicles, used exclusively to transport fruit to the market. Given the perishable nature of the produce, logistics are of course of paramount importance to the whole operation. Midlands Logistics manages a big fleet of vehicles that transports fruit across South Africa, into neighbouring countries – and crucially to the ports.

lemon-thesamagIn fact, much of Endulini’s produce from the farms ends up overseas today, being exported through the Southern Fruit Growers organisation and in recent times, the business has aligned itself with the Fair Trade movement, which has significantly enhanced its export opportunities.

Fair Trade operates with the aim of improving the economic and social development of small-scale farmers and workers on plantations. Producers have to comply with Fair Trade standards in order to become certified. The Fair Trade standards state that if national legislation sets a higher standard on an issue than FLO, then the higher standard supersedes FLO standards. However, FLO must interpret national legislation and adapt their policies to ensure the principles of Fair Trade are maintained. This only applies to legislation that contributes to the overall aims of Fair Trade.

From the beginning of September, 2007, FLO-CERT introduced a new policy for South Africa which adopts the codes of B-BBEE to measure the levels of worker empowerment. At Endulini farms this of course meant that the company needed to attain not only normal FLO-CERT standards, but also to comply with the B-BBEE requirements.

Having succeeded in attaining the necessary levels, Endulini Fruit Estate, began supplying English supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, with oranges, soft citrus and lemons. At that time, Endulini was one of just 20 producers in South Africa to supply Fair Trade produce, with empowerment projects on two of its farms: Galactic Deals 139 (Pty) Ltd and Endulini Sundays River Fruit.

Galactic Deals comprises of a 36 hectare farm, located close to Endulini Fruit Estate and was previously owned by the Ferreira family. In 2004 the Ferreiras agreed with the management of Endulini that they wanted to collaborate on empowerment projects for their workers.

As a result of this decision, Endulini Fruit Estate sold 49 per cent of their shares in Galactic Deals to the Endulini Development Trust. The 28 coloured shareholders of Endulini Development Trust funded their purchase of the shares through Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) grants. At that time, all of the shareholders had been employed by Endulini FE for a period of at least ten years and the term of employment was one of the most important criteria in the identification of prospective shareholders.

oranges-thesamagHaving successfully accomplished its initial aim to establish a first empowerment project, Endulini Fruit Estate felt that they had the capacity and knowledge to start and support another empowerment project. Endulini Sundays River Fruit, a farm in the Sunland district in the Sundays Rivers Valley, was jointly bought by the Ferreira family and the Endulini Sundays River Worker Trust in 2005.

The Ferreira family has a 60 per cent shareholding in this venture and the workers trust owns 40 per cent. The 50 coloured shareholders at this particular farm also secured their funding for shares through LRAD grants. Thirty six of these shareholders are seasonal packhouse workers who have worked for Endulini Fruit since 1993, while the remaining 14 are permanent employees of Endulini Sundays River Fruit.

Whilst the Patensie region remains steeped in history and its farmers continue to reap the rewards of the land, at Endulini Farms there remains a forward-thinking philosophy that is delivering a fairer deal for its workforce and a global approach to farming.