Ventersdorp - Food manufacturing giant Tiger Brands is providing emerging farmers with funding and skills to be able to participate in its empire through a small farmer development programme that is part of its transformation drive.
The company, which produces millions of tons of various foods daily, has invested millions through its Dipuno Enterprise and Supplier Development Fund, which was launched in 2019.
The funding is implemented through farm aggregators across the country to assist the company in receiving the required demand for farm produce.
Under the programme, the first group of white maize farmers from Ventersdorp, in the North West Province, presented their first crop this week.
Participating farmers received funding for supplements, which enabled them to produce on a bigger scale than they could do on their own.
A farmer, Kagiso Molebaloa, said while he started farming in the early 2000s with his parents, it was the first time he planted 300 hectares of maize that he will supply to Tiger Brands. He leased communal land from the local traditional authorities, which had not been used before.
“It helps a lot to be under the aggregators, the input cost of agriculture is very steep. I would not even attempt to plant on land that is this big. The fertiliser and everything else is very expensive. The Dipuno fund funds 90% of our input, so it takes the bulk of the cost off.
“The diesel cost, the seed, and the chemicals are by far the most expensive inputs we have. For a project like this, your bill will run for over R2-million, and for an emerging farmer to have such an amount is impossible.
“As a result, the programme enabled us to develop more quickly than we otherwise could have done with our resources.
"It is a very good project because it allows us to grow," he said. "The commercial banks don't have to give us the lowest rate; they just have to give us the funding and technical support we need."
Another farmer, Lerako Naphtaly, leased a commercial farm where he grows white maize.
He said the aggregator model has been beneficial as Tiger Brands required large scale produce throughout the year.
“It is hard to enter into this business because you need to be a commercial farmer to meet their demand. But through aggregators, they managed to combine our produce well, get a share and participate in the economy.
“Their financial support has been great and made it possible for us as small farmers. All we need is more land so we can keep this going,”he said.
Litha Kutta, Tiger Brands Enterprise and Supplier Development Director, said there was a pressing need to change the situation and agriculture was an integral part of turning things around. He said the company was doing its part to transform small farmers to participate in its dominance in the food sector.
He added that while many of these emerging farmers were qualified to some extent, they remain left out of the agriculture industry either due to a “lack of access to develop their skills” or the need to receive “corporate assistance” when it comes to developing their entrepreneurial ambitions.
“These issues speak to the greater challenge facing small-scale farmers who struggle to produce at the scale and quality that large food producers demand. Reaching this level of production requires development and support, often spanning several years – something that adds complexity to a corporate supply chain.
“As a way to address this challenge, Tiger Brands introduced its Agriculture Aggregator model, which, through expert technical and management skills support, helps small scale black farmers to compete at a commercial level,”he said.
He added that since it launched in 2019, the programme has supported 157 small black farmers and raised R54m in funding.
Other small farmers who are interested in the programme are urged to get in touch with the business to learn more. Kutta said they want to foster relations with the government to gain access to land and increase their funding to a billion rand to increase local produce for the company.