The Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s Alternative Crops Fund has supported the research needs of the alternative crop industry to the tune of R9,2 million during the past five years. This support has led to a number of significantly positive outcomes.
Alternative crops refer to crops such as berries, cherries, nuts, pomegranates, olives and honeybush. These niche crops are seen as beneficial in that they are labour intensive and use less water than other horticultural crops. Alternative crops are also in high demand in export markets and fetch higher prices.
“The Department of Agriculture has been investing in research into these crops to ensure that they have the best chance of success. The high labour intensity of these crops, coupled with increased export revenues, means that they have a positive effect on the agricultural economy,” said Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverly Schafer.
Projects supported through the research fund include growth and production studies, irrigation, pests and diseases, quality grading, phytosanitary research, chemical registrations, root stocks, and new cultivars.
The department also assists farmers growing these crops with market access support, and support at farm level, especially for emerging and smallholder farmers.
The focus on alternative crops has seen an increase in the number of hectares planted to these crops in the province. Data shows that the number of hectares planted to nut trees grew by over 80% between 2013 and 2017, while hectares planted to berries grew by about 40%.
A flagship showcase of these alternative crops is the Cape Made Pavilion and the Cape Made Kitchen at the annual SA Cheese Festival which will be held from 26 April to 28 April.