Looking after people and the planet

Looking after people and the planet

Eastern Cape citrus producer and exporter, Endulini Fruit’s CEO, Pietie Ferreira, is a third generation farmer heading one of the biggest farming units within the Gamtoos Valley. His father started farming in 1930 with tobacco and potatoes.

The Ferreira’s started citrus farming in 1953 with land Pietie inherited from his dad. In 1994, when the industry was de-regulated, they decided to leave the co-operative and opted to pack and export themselves. He and his younger brother formalised the company as it stands today. Unfortunately his brother, Eppie Ferreira, passed away in 2013. Pietie subsequently bought more land, making Endulini one of the biggest farming units within the Gamtoos Valley. Pietie says that his responsibilities include the day to day running of the operations with a very capable team assisting him. He is also responsible for the strategic direction of the company.

Endulini’s beliefs are to operate the whole supply chain in order to make sure the quality of their fruit can be guaranteed. The business is fully integrated with companies that help in the supply chain processes and other companies that have nothing to do with fruit or farming at all. Fruit farming and packing is their main business and they strive to be pioneers in this industry. According to Pietie, operations are built around their people, the planet and making profit.

A business needs to be sustainable. One of their main operation values is making sure that their people are happy, this also include the communities that the company operate in, this helps with efficiency and productivity. All operations on the Endulini farms need to make sure that the above mentioned principles are alive and well in the day to day running. Pietie says that he believes in the perfect mix of technology and well-trained employees to create the perfect working environment. They invest greatly in training and technology to ensure that the quality of their product succeeds their competitors’ products.

Pietie firmly believes in relationships and the Endulini model is built around it, valuing customers and suppliers.

Endulini’s production units are spread over the Gamtoos River Valley and the Sundays River Valley. The reason for this is to minimise risks in weather patterns and water supply. They belief in servicing customers with the whole citrus basket and therefore have made sure they can supply them with enough soft citrus, hard citrus and lemon varieties.

The company has its own research and development department, making sure they stay on the forefront of new varieties and constantly testing the markets to make sure they stay relevant. In the last two years Endulini have started erecting hundreds of hectares of netting, covering their citrus orchids, to improve the quality of the fruit they supply.

Because they are passionate about their people, Pietie and his late brother Eppie started farming together with their workers in the early 2000s. More than R7 million have been distributed, helping to better the lives of employees that helped make these farms a success story.

In the last four years, Endulini have invested heavily in new farms, which have created and will create work for more than 600 seasonal and 200 permanent employees. Currently only approximately 52% is in production, producing more than 48 000 000 kg of citrus fruit annually.

One of the biggest challenges they face is finding employees that want to farm and have the skill to farm. There is also the interference of politics by creating the wrong perception of farmers, uncertainty, droughts and the managing of scares resources.

When looking at soil conditions, fertilisation and irrigation systems, Pietie says that they prefer micro irrigation. “It works for us and if used together with water monitoring and scheduling software, I believe you can manage your water better. By implementing this software and better training we have managed to decrease the water usage on all our farms. Annually we take soil and leaf samples and according to the need of the tree we apply fertiliser. We narrow it down only to supply the needs of the tree and the fruit it supplies,” commented Pietie.

So what is the secret to their success? Pietie says that they look after their employees, and strive to look after their planet by farming in a sustainable manner. “It’s important to look after our product and correctly add value to the correct niche markets, to make sure the product satisfies the perceived value of the customer,” remarked Pietie.