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REKOPANE ESTATE

“The sun rises for farm workers as they come together with grape grower Peu Bezuidenhout in a unique new partnership.”
Rekopane - “We are together” or “We came together!”
Loretlhabetse - “The sun has risen for us”

REKOPANE ESTATE is a partnership between the owner of Naftali Estates, Mr Peu Bezuidenhout, and the Lorethabetse Trust, which consists of 65 workers of Naftali Estates.

NAFTALI ESTATES, which comprise the farms Naftali, Monte and Summerdown and which belongs to the Bezuidenhout family, is one of South Africa’s best known seedless grape growers. It is located on the banks of the mighty Orange River near Kanoneiland, west of Upington in South Africa’s Northern Cape.

Monte Estate was sold in February 2008

Naftali is a Biblical Name meaning that “I have fought and I have conquered”. This very much represents the pioneering spirit which Peu Bezuidenhout, his family and staff has shown in the development of the farm.

The first 6 hectares of land was bought in 1979 and used to cultivate rotational crops. When it was realized that the extreme temperatures between winter and summer, the fertile soil and a steady supply of water from the Orange River represent all the ingredients for the production of high quality table grapes, Naftali embarked on a new venture.

Now, some 30 years later, the sweet and juicy grapes from this region has become the benchmark for producers elsewhere in the world. Naftali and growers in its surrounding district are now South Africa’s leading grape exporters.

And with it comes the birth of Rekopane which will open up a new chapter in this fine tradition of fruit growing. Rekopane is a Tswane word and is the start of an exciting new era, because Peu Bezuidenhout and his workers have indeed “come together” to establish a new partnership.

Through the establishment of the Loretlhabetse Trust, 65 farm workers and their families who have helped to establish this successful grape farming operation are now becoming shareholders in Rekopane. The word Loretlhabetse means “the sun has risen for us.” The workers will own 25% of Rekopane and will have 26% of the voting rights.

Although they are not direct shareholders, both the Department of Land Affairs and one of South Africa’s best known commercial banks, Standard Bank, are considered to be most important Rekopane partners. The Department of Land Affairs has allocated ELRAD funds and Standard Bank has contributed in the form of a loan to enable the shareholders to take up their shareholding. Both are also supplying ongoing support for the project.

PRODUCTION:
REKOPANE now consists of 528 hectares of land of which 212 hectares are planted with table grapes. Future expansion of fresh fruit production will include 68 hectares of new table grape varieties and 60 hectares of citrus fruit. The new orchards and vineyards will be developed over the next three years. Rekopane also produces 1,400 tons of wine grapes on 23 hectares. The varieties are Colombard and Steen and the grapes are pressed at the Oranjerivier Wine cellar. A further 22 hectares of Sultana vineyards are utilised for raisins of which 176 tons are produced each year.

There is also a growing rose and herb production, a guest house, liqueur store, 2 farm shops and a wedding and function venue concludes the business activities.

The production of table grapes have always been the core business. The best of South African seedless grapes are grown in the vineyards of Rekopane, including Prime, Flame Seedless, Surgraone, Thompson Seedless and Crimson Seedless. Seeded varieties that produces grapes of exceptional quality are Victoria.

All the orchards have been certified in terms of the international environmental and food safety standerds of EurepGap and Tesco’s Nature’s Choice. Rekopane’s evironmental policies is aimed at sustainable agriculture and protection of indigenous plants and wild life are part of the way of life among the people of Rekopane.

Rekopane’s people nurture and care for their grapes from the moment the little bunches are formed in the spring. When they are ripe, grapes are harvested and cooled down immediately to remove the field heat and retain optimum quality.

Rekopane’s modern pack house have received the highest level of international certification in the form of BRC, the standard of the British Retail Convention. After packing and recooling, the grapes are dispatched for sale to leading customers according to fixed programmes.

Rekopane has an excellent information system and customers and service providers can constantly stay in touch with activities in the orchards and pack house through the website – www.rekopane-estates.com

REKOPANE IS A PEOPLE ORIENTATED BUSINESS

During the peak harvesting months from November to February some 1000 people are employed at Rekopane. During the rest of the year this figure drops down to around 340, including the 65 new shareholders in the Leretlhabetse Trust, who now owns 25% of Rekopane.

Rekopane now incorporates the farms Naftali, Monte and Sommerdown. Peu Bezuidenhout is the majority shareholder with 75%. The equity stake for the 25% shareholding of the Loretlhabetse Trust was raised through a grant from the government ELRAD funds, as well as through a loan from Standard Bank.

Monte Estate was sold in February 2007 to further establish plantations for greater production of earlier ripening cultivars.

The Chairman of the Loretlhabetse Trust is Jack de Wee, who, along with Peu Bezuidenhout, are the only directors of Rekopane.

In order to achieve the maximum transparency the shareholders of the Lorathlabetse Trust has appointed an outside independent trustee in the person of Ms Connie Seoposengwe, Speaker of the Northern Cape Government.


Profile of shareholder group:

AGE GROUP MEN:                  AGE GROUP WOMEN:
20 years = 8                                 20 years = 2
30 years = 18                               30 years = 6
40 years = 18                               40 years = 4
50 years = 6                                 50 years = 3
MEN: 50                                      WOMEN: 15

TOTAL NUMBER OF SHAREHOLDERS = 65
WOMEN = 15                                                                  23%
MEN = 50                                                                         77%
35 YEARS & YOUNGER = 26                                       40%
DISABLED = 2                                                                  1%


BACKED BY TRAINING, SKILLS TRANSFER AND DEVELOPMENT:

Training, skills transfer and management is of crucial importance to ensure succesful and sustainable production of table grapes, wine grapes, raisins and citrus fruit. The development of the citrus project will create additional work during months of relatively low labour requirements.

People development is therefore of utmost importance and all staff benefit from formal training and skills transfer. Specific examples of this is the fact that Ms Wilmien Draaier has qualified to manage the guest house at Rekopane, and Ms Eveline Mealangwe manages the production of roses in a tunnel. The farm shops is managed by Ms Clara de Wee and Ms Angeline Prins.

The investment in people extends to social, cultural and health enrichment in the wider farm community and the local school and church receives strong support from the Bezuidenhout family.

The People Development Programme at Rekopane has received certification by the Investor in People Standard which is based in the Unted Kingdom.

THE FUTURE:

The entrepenieurial spirit of Peu Bezuidenhout is always seeking out new peaks to conquer. The establishment of a highly succesful fruit growing business which has proved its sustainability during tough economic conditions has been achieved through always being the best – the best soils and cultivars, the best farming practices, the best packaging and marketing, and, finally, the best in people. The birth of Rekopane as a true ownership partnership between grower and workers which sets new standards in empowerment in South Africa. 

 
     
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