Delecta was formed in 1997 just after the de-regulation of the South African fruit industry. The leading producer-owned company works with another 30 independent growers from across the country to export table grapes, apples, pears, citrus and stone fruit to leading retailers and wholesalers around the world.
“We’ve worked with Spinneys for the last 10 years, supplying them with peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots,” says managing director Awie de Jager. “We are committed to delivering varieties with the best eating quality and good shelf life continually throughout the season, from our early to late production areas,” he adds.
As a key player in the stone fruit industry, innovation and varietal development is at the forefront for Delecta and any grower with whom they work subscribes to the same ethos. “Finding the right partners, in the right areas, is important to us, and everyone thinks toward the future.”
One of Delecta’s six major shareholders is Graaff Fruit -– a family business in the Ceres region that produces Bradford, PSB, Zaiger and Sunworld varieties across three established farms.
Danie Viljoen heads up the company’s original farm Lushof, which is located near Prince Alfred Hamlet, in the Warm Bokkeveld area. The medium chill climate with high summer temperatures is great for growing peaches and nectarines, ensuring optimum sugar levels.
Sustainability, mentoring and the integration of technology across all processes are all important to Danie. The self-confessed ‘disruptor’ leads a switched-on team who look after 175 hectares of high-yielding stone fruit trees and successful trial blocks.
“Technology works throughout the flow of our day,” says Danie. “We have tablets being used in the fields, where all sorts of data is recorded, communicated and linked together. This helps with overall traceability. Everyone needs to be connected to the bigger picture of what we’re doing.”
About a 30-minute drive from Lushof is Romansrivier – another of Graaff’s farms, which is located in Wolseley in the Breede River Valley. The climate is mild, but is also very windy – which means the majority of stone fruit trees are planted under nets.
Pierre de Wet, who is at the helm of this operation, explains that nets, despite being costly, are hugely beneficial. The microclimate created underneath them means the fruit has a cosmetically cleaner appearance, grows faster and more abundantly and there is a saving on water usage, thus lowering the farm’s carbon footprint.
A fact that was raised by all the growers we met is that it all comes down to timing when you’re dealing with stone fruit. And given the delicate nature of the produce, one needs to tread carefully.
Pierre – who has been farming for 18 years – sums it up well: “There’s no such thing as tomorrow being another day in this industry. Whether the trees need to be pruned, or the flowers need thinning or the fruit needs harvesting, it all has to be done immediately. It keeps you on your toes. But when you look at the results of what you’ve done – that’s something of which to be proud.”
For more information, please visit Delecta