File photo: Reuters

Johannesburg - The future of about 60 000 people employed by the citrus industry depends on the outcome of the European Commission talks over the issue of citrus black spot (CBS).

An unfavourable decision on the citrus trade, which is worth about R4 billion, will not only hurt the economy, but will result in jobs cuts and maybe an oversupply of citrus fruits in the country.

According to the Citrus Growers Association, CBS is a difficult fungus to identify at harvesting and packing. The latent infection develops as the fruit ripens and sometimes becomes visible a few weeks after being packed.

The local citrus industry has responded to the EU concerns with a comprehensive CBS risk management system. The system, which cost citrus growers dearly, was initiated by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with citrus growers in 2004.

According to the association, the system has seen a dramatic reduction in interceptions, which are now less than 0.3 percent of consignments shipped to Europe.

CBS has a definite window of infection, which is between October and January. In this period, growers have to ensure that orchards are thoroughly inspected.

Growers have taken ownership of the situation and make sure that orchards suspected of having CBS are withdrawn from the EU export programme.

So far 1 100 orchards have been withdrawn compared with 102 orchards last year. In every packhouse, the department has assigned an inspector and further inspections are done in the packline.

The industry has also made a concerted effort to visit citrus-producing countries in Europe to get a better understanding of their concerns.

Meanwhile, it is believed that the European market has been very tough, characterised by a lot of small oranges of indifferent quality. page 20

Wipro interns

Wipro Technologies, a New York-listed global information technology, consulting and outsourcing company, launched a 100 seater learning centre in Johannesburg this week.

The company says it is increasing its commitment in South Africa. The centre with classroom and presentation rooms was unveiled under the banner of the Wipro Employability Enhancement Programme.

The company also awarded 40 certificates to interns who were participants of a pilot study that involved practical and theoretical assessments. The learners must have at least graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and specialised in maths and science at university.

Consider the Wipro programme as a kind of finishing school, although the strict application process requires applicants to undertake an entrance exam and interviews that test attitudes to learning and technical aptitude.

Saurabh Govil, the senior vice-president of Wipro – which provides information technology (IT) services to private and public sector locally, said: “The Wipro programme aspires to bridge the gap between campuses and the IT industry.”

Govil said that the training involved giving the interns live practical training on client projects.

The six-month programme comprises three months of theory and three months of practical experience.

The programme, to some degree, is self-serving. An intake of the best performing students have been absorbed into the company, according to Govil.

She said the internship programme was a core element of the firm’s growth strategy for Africa.

Earlier this week, the parent company headquartered in India, announced a restructuring that would result in the reskilling of its workforce with proficiency in emerging technologies, data analytics and cloud computing.

Shailendra Singh, the business director of Wipro’s South African operations, said on Wednesday that the skills taught to local students included SAP and Oracle technology, infrastructure and business process development, which were sought after in the market.

The firm was aiming to position “South Africa as a hub for addressing Africa and our global customers”, Singh said.

The programme is also the company’s response to the government’s requirement for companies to sell 30 percent of their equity to empower previously disadvantaged groups, or to enter into an equity equivalence programme.

Singh declined to reveal the cost of the programme, citing company policy.

Edited by Banele Ginindza. Contributions from Nompumelelo Magwaza and Asha Speckman.