The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies agriculture as one of the key drivers of employment in South Africa. Supporting this initiative, United Exports has selected Wellington for the development of a flagship blueberry farming operation – Indigo Berries – further entrenching the Western Cape as a significant exporter and local provider of this popular berry in a globally competitive, but growing market.
The development is on existing farmland on the outskirts of Wellington where a farming operation conducted by the previous owner had been significantly scaled back.
Jon Salters, chief executive officer of United Exports, says that the investment into the development of a world-class blueberry operation is a positive development for South Africa, the Western Cape region, as well as the local community.
“It promises substantial sustainable social and economic benefits for the area, including the creation of much needed additional employment and direct investment of more than R70-million, excluding the value of the farmland,” he says.
“Agriculture is as important for South Africa, as it is for the Western Cape. In recent years, the region has seen significant pressure in the highly competitive area of grape production for wine. Blueberries provide a great opportunity for the region and its farmers to diversify into a sustainable, growing world market for this incredibly healthy fruit.”
According to Mr Salters, it’s all systems go for the Indigo Berries project, which is already far advanced.
“Planting should commence in the near future, and the first harvest date will be in September 2018,” says Mr Salter.
The project incorporates internationally competitive proprietary blueberry varieties, innovative production technology as well as compliance with stringent European production, quality and sustainability standards.
Once fully operational, Indigo Berries will be United Exports’ showpiece blueberry operation in the Western Cape, boasting precision farming techniques including environmentally friendly computerised fertigation, resulting in more efficient water management.
“The farming operation is expected to employ over 65 permanent staff, with staff numbers increasing to about 650 at peak times, including harvesting.
“In addition, a significant investment will be made over the next three years on up-skilling and training workers, as well as specialist technical and management staff.
“The agricultural industry is constantly adapting and embracing modern technology and skills. Boland – and Wellington in
particular – has undergone significant changes over the past 100 years, and will no doubt continue to do so in order to remain relevant and competitive in both the local and global markets,” says Mr Salters.
“Great care has been taken to create a show piece development that will be attractive to tourists, international researchers and business visitors, contributing to the local economy and the image of Wellington as a progressive farming area.
“We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders in Wellington in creating a truly unique blueberry destination, as well as conducting our operations in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.”