The Guard

The Truth On Board

Persistence pays off

By Emily Setona

BETHLEHEM – The chairman of Remmoho Investment in Agriculture (RIA), Pitso Sekhoto’s persistence pays off as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the Free State Department of Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) inject R10 million rand into the apple production project.

The Thabo Mofutsanyana Apple Harvest Day was held on the 25th of January at Stead Fruit Grovers (SFG) farm to showcase the Thabo Mutsanyana apple hub initiative that would see the region producing up to 180 000 tons of apples per annum. Sixty percent of these apples would be destined for the export market while the rest would be sold to local markets and processed for apple juice production.

While addressing the crowd gathered at the SFG farm the MEC of DARD Saki Mokoena said the following: “Finally Remmoho and its partners are here with us today all because of the efforts of Pitso Sekhoto. Mr Sekhoto took us to the Western Cape to show us the vision he has for apple production in the eastern Free State area. We were very reluctant to go with him but what made me hop on the plane is because of his passion and because he said he has a vision. As a province our strength is agriculture and we as government we haven’t invested enough into this sector this is why we have decided to invest in this project. In the past this side of the eastern Free State used to have a cherry belt that has disappeared. Now that we invest in this apple production project is because it is a strategic move looking at the value chain that promises to create jobs for people in this area.”

With the help of the government, RIA will be building a 10 ton per hour capacity apple juice concentrate processing plant. The project has the potential to uplift the rural economy and fast – track commercialization of apple farmers in the region.

According to MEC of DESTEA Thabo Meeko, MEC Mokoena took him along with him to the Western Cape to see Sekhoto’s vision for the apple production project.

MEC Saki Mokoena from DARD and MEC Thabo Meeko from DESTEA handing over 10mil rand cheque to RIA.

“Agriculture is a very strategic mainstay of the Free State province and MEC Mokoena has said that agriculture must be to the Free State what oil is in the Arab world. We as a province must adapt or die, the Free State’s economy has remained stagnant for a period of years now. Our spending as government must ensure that we are able to enter that space in strategic areas so that we are able to act as a catalyst to catalyse the economy,” Meeko said while addressing the crowd.

In his closing remarks on behalf of RIA and their partners, Sekhoto said the following: “I am very proud of the team that has put this plan together and I am very proud to be coming from this area and to be a farmer. At my age I cannot allow failure. I am the one who knocks on the door and hope that things come together. I have farmers here who are supporting me, I have Kobus who is an engineer and a farmer, and he is the one who has allowed us to be part of his farm to do this project. This project is going to change because of the help from the government, we are going to turn this 10 million into 50 million.”