With six weeks of packing to go until the end of the citrus season, SAFE farm managers have already begun to “refresh” their fields by removing old trees and replacing them with new plantings for the 2021 season.
Meanwhile, the decision to assign 70 percent of the SAFE citrus farmland to oranges and the remainder to lemons has paid dividends for SAFE in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This saw a surge in sales, particularly in Europe, due to the high levels of immune system-boosting vitamin C in oranges.
“After a slow start – due to the initial lockdown in Europe – the market picked up and by the end of July sales were almost back to normal levels,’ said Dries van Rooyen, General Manager of SAFE Farming Operations.
Dries said the actual impact of the coronavirus on SAFE farming operations had so far been negligible.
“We began doing what was necessary right from the start, from providing masks and sanitisers to our workers to having all the necessary PPE on hand. I won’t deny that there were some challenges, particularly with transport and the screening of seasonal workers, but in the end, we did not have any major problems.”
SAFE has consistently made the health, safety and education of farmworkers a focus of their good business practice, so keeping workers informed about the virus and how to remain healthy was not difficult. The fact that international certification – such as Fair Trade – also demands a focus on worker health, meant that SAFE was already, in many of its practices, “ahead of the curve.”
The focus now, said Dries, was on SAFE’s table grape farms. He said that pruning for the season had already begun and estimates were being drawn for export marketing.
“Already we are predicting a good table grape season. There has been rain, rivers are flowing, and dams are filling up. The saltwater problem experienced by farmers in the Western Cape is thankfully a thing of the past.
“We have a lot of indications,” concluded Dries, “that the coming season will be a good one for our table grape farmers. And it’s about time. We have survived so many challenges, not least the crippling drought and a freezing cold winter. Now, at last, it seems that we can look forward to a change for the better.”