South Africa for many years has been the most important source of fruit in the Winter. With the expertise of Trevor McKenzie (owner of Eurafruit SA (Pty) Ltd), a solid base of South African growers has been built up, with Eurafruit providing the necessary technical back up and coordinating the sale logistics. In 2000, officially published figures show that over 90% of the countries Blueberry exports were attributable to Eurafruit, and over 95% of these exports were handled at Winterwood Farm. Since then the industry has expanded considerably, with other players now investing in Blueberries. In 2020, the Grower Group will still however account for over 50% of the Blueberries exported rom South Africa.
Melwood Fruits (Pty) Ltd
In 1999, Winterwood Farms Ltd entered into a joint venture with Eurafruit and one of Eurafruit’s suppliers, “The Melsetter Trust”. The JV company was named “Melwood (Pty) Ltd”, and the participants between them provide the growing expertise, logistical and technical knowledge as well the end market. Melwood operates on a 70ha farm called Brandwag (Location; -34.004976, 19.274337) near Capetown that forms the centre of its growing operation. The farm will continue to expand along with existing Eurafruit suppliers, that have all played a major part in the success of the total business to date.
Lushof Fruits (Pty) Ltd.
The addition of Lushof Farm (location; -33.160342, 19.007653) on 2005, a 221 ha early organically certified farm in Saron, also added Organic table and wine grapes to the company portfolio. Although the wine grapes were quickly phased out due to the small premium for Organic wines, the Table grapes have been a success and the overall area is similar in 2020 to when the farm was acquired, although many of the older varieties have now been replaced with more sought after types. Lushof produces on average around 150,000 x 4.5kg boxes of table grapes per annum.
Lushof was initially purchased by Dreammaker, but soon after purchase a minority shareholding was been sold to the newly formed ‘Lushof Workers Trust’, set up under the governments BEE initiative (Black Empowerment). This now means that Lushof’s workers are beneficiaries of the Trust, which in turn has shares in the farm. The farm is still managed under the overall Winterwood umbrella.
Dreammaker Fruits (Pty) Ltd.
(Location; -32.947312, 19.076942)
In a separate Blueberry project, Winterwood Farms Ltd using its South African company ‘Dreammaker’, acquired a further two farms near the town of Porterville in South Africa, about 2 hours North East of Capetown at an altitude ranging from 700-1000m above sea level. The lower farm is called ‘Teeland’ and the upper farm ‘Zuurvlakte’. Together the two farms cover some 853ha. The 1000m altitude of Zuurvlakte brings with it just enough cold required in the Winter to enable the production of the NHB Blueberry varieties that are impossible on lower altitude sites such as Melwood, and even Teeland at 700m altitude and only 2km from Zuurvlakte, concentrates mainly on SHB types as not enough chill for the Northerns. Dreammaker now has around 80ha of Blueberries in the ground, and over the years has also produced Raspberries, Blackberries and Redcurrants, although the current focus is now almost 100% Blueberries
Kruger Berries (Pty) Ltd.
(Location -23.760762, 30.316109)
Kruger Berries was the name given to 492ha of ground in NE of South African in the Limpopo Province (not far from Kruger Park, hence the name).
The ground was in fact 3 separate adjoining farms that the parent Company of Kruger Berries Property (Pty) managed to acquire in a short space of time in 2015. The aim was to combine the 3 farms into one, and over a year period to plant 100ha of Blueberries. The extra ground was purchased purely for the associated water rights and storage, but unfortunately 2018 and 2019 saw once in a lifetime drought and the farm ran out of water. At that time 62ha were planted, and 21ha of this ended up having to be removed due to lack of water. In 2019 one of the two dams on the farm, which was ironically almost completely washed away in floods of 2000, was repaired. Unfortunately no rain then fell to fill it up so we stared 2019 with little water and 2020 with less than desirable.
Rains did however eventually come and water is now secure, but dams still some way to go before filling up, which in theory should happen in the rainy season of December – February.
2020 saw some of the ground replanted and as of November 2020, the farm is back up to 50ha with more planned as the water security is also improved. We never thought to plan for 2 full years with no water – lesson learned !
Roughly 100ha of the intended total Blueberry area is fenced off within the farm, and the whole farm of 492ha has an external fence, and so the 392ha that is unused for cropping has been stocked with some animals to keep down the vegetation, and so there are Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest and plenty of Impala introduced as a start. This is both nice to see, as well as being the most environmentally friendly way of maintaining the bush surrounding the area of Blueberries.
Bush Valley Berries
(Location; -23.810151, 30.342536)
This is the latest addition to the group, with 120ha ground situated East of Tzaneen, and only about 4km as the crow flies form Kruger Berries Farm. Google maps at the time of writing not showing the developments yet, but in 2019 first 5ha planted, now 11ha in 2020. As with Kruger, water security the current main focus and although lucky that plenty of water for 11ha, the 2018 and 2019 drought prevented expansion to 35ha as planned for 2020, but the farm will be expended over the coming years. One difference with Bush Valley is the first 11ha is 100% in substrate all all outside grown, compared to Kruger which is 100% in the ground and 100% protected cropping,