Minister seeks end to ‘war’ with Walmart so as to benefit farmers
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson wants the “war” between South Africa and Walmart to end.
Joemat-Pettersson spoke at the first harvest of the Walmart-Massmart Ezemvelo Direct Farming Programme of small-scale farmers in Limpopo yesterday.
“We cannot afford to be fighting Walmart. We do not have the luxury of time. Their presence through the direct farming project has given smallholder farmers direct access to the market.”
Walmart bought 51 percent of Massmart last year, but the deal is still controversial, especially with fears that local suppliers to Massmart will lose out to Walmart’s global suppliers. The issue of protecting local suppliers is still subject to a Competition Appeal Court process.
The project involves 40 farmers in Limpopo and was launched in November last year. Walmart-Massmart will soon source tomatoes, carrots, green beans and other vegetables from the farmers.
Joematt-Pettersson said South Africans needed to move on so that “we can start to see the benefits”.
Her department was in talks with SAB to encourage the brewery to source its raw materials from small-scale farmers.
“We encourage all retailers and business people to use small-scale farmers and use them in a way that they can benefit,” she said.
Joematt-Pettersson said the Walmart direct farming project would not entirely cut out the middle man but it would give small-scale farmers a chance to grow.
“We need to ensure that the farmers produce good quality, consistent volumes and benefit from the project. This will help retailers like Walmart to rely on these farmers,” she said.
Ncane Mthunzi, the group supply development executive at Massmart, said that through the farming project the retailer would source 30 percent of its fresh produce requirements from smallholders. To do this Massmart needed to connect 1 500 small-scale farmers to stores by 2016.
The 40 farmers in Limpopo would start supplying to Game Foodco, Makro and Cambridge Food stores.
“Walmart-Massmart is building a packing warehouse in Limpopo where farmers will pack the fresh produce and straight to the stores,” Mthunzi said.
Globally, Walmart has committed $1 billion (R8.2bn) to food sourced from 1 million small to medium farms and will train 1 million farmers in the supply chain in the next five years.
Nompumelelo Magwaza’s trip to Limpopo was sponsored by Massmart.