Changing Lives One Job at a Time

South Africa has about 2 121 hectares under nectarine production, the majority of which (42%) are in Ceres, Western Cape. Over the years, hectares under nectarine have seen some fluctuation, with a steep decrease in 2015 (-4%) from the previous year and a 2% decrease in 2017. However, from 2018 onwards, hectares under nectarine production have stabilised and experienced a 1% increase in 2019. This is mainly due to improving and favourable climatic conditions in major producing regions. One of the contributors to this increase, even though a tiny player, is the La Vouere farm in Ceres. The 110 hectare (ha) farm planted 40 ha of nectarines in three years.

In 2015, after several years of struggling to get the farm up and running with nectarines, Raymond and Mary Koopstad bought out their shareholders and started a new venture called La Vouere Stonefruit Pty Ltd. The couple then entered into a joint venture (JV), La Vouere Stonefruit Pty Ltd, with Verdun Estates, a private sector initiative by farmers, in cooperation with the community, that targets black farmers towards transforming the fruit industry.

La Vouere Stonefruit joined a Jobs Fund initiative involving the Western Cape and Eastern Cape Departments of Agriculture, and the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber (DFDC), which aimed to commercialise black entrant farmers in the fruit industry by securing market access (local and export), enhancing farming skills to improve quality of production and improve the competitiveness of the farmers for long-term sustainable growth.

“What attracted the Jobs Fund to the initiative was its ability to not only secure and enhance market access for smallholder farmers by linking each farmer with a pack-house, a mentor and a market, but actively address social and ecological issues through the promotion of good agricultural and ethical trading practices”, says Najwah Allie-Edries, Head of the Jobs Fund.

Through this initiative, La Vouere StoneFruit received funds to establish 37 ha of young orchards and infrastructure development. Their strategic partner provided production capital and funded the shortfalls. It also assisted the JV with sourcing loan funding to acquire additional land and water.

In 2017 the first 15 ha of nectarines were planted on the farm. Typically, with stone fruit, farmers only start to harvest in year 3. However, Raymond harvested their first crop in year 1 (2018), with a remarkable income of over R3 million. In 2020, Raymond harvested 19 ha at an average yield of 33 tons/ha, with 75% of his yield classified as class 1 produce. Out of that, 41% was sold to export markets and the rest sold locally. That season the Koopstads made a total income of R11 million.

Raymond Koopstad indicated that the amazing work that has gone into growing the business and the results it is bearing, is “through collaboration with the right partners”. Koopstad cannot stress enough how having the right partners in the operations, bringing in various technical knowledge, administrative assistance, and willingness to be there when needed can assist in many ways.

La Vouere Stonefruit (Pty) Ltd is a testament to the DFDC Commercialisation Programme’s success and its ability to commercialise black farmers. The project has supported 21 farming black-owned fruit producers in Grabouw, Langkloof, Greyton, Villiersdorp, Paarl, Vyeboom and Ceres.

The Koopstads are currently packaging their fruit under the Verdun brand but wish to establish their own brand under the La Vouere name. To make this a reality, they will start by co-branding with Verdun and once the market is familiar with their name, they will market the farm’s fruit under it.

In the past few years, the South African export market has grown, with most exported produce sold to the European Union and the Middle East. La Vouere Stonefruit is intent on riding this wave on its own terms.