Right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, some stakeholders came together in Rosendal in the Eastern Free State to plan for a long-term agricultural business. This was David Matobako, a land reform beneficiary and his neighbouring farmer, Francois Crause, who decided to look beyond the uncertainty brought by the pandemic and seek opportunities within the agricultural sector. An approach was made to Fresh To Go, a leading supplier of fresh and processed vegetables to Woolworths, South Africa, for possible opportunities.
These discussions led to the formation of Maluti Asparagus Company (MAC) which is a partnership between KM Enterprise, the BEE partner in MAC, representing David Matobako and Thato Moeng, Francois Crause and Fresh To Go.
The MAC partnership is modelled within the PALS guidelines where David makes the land available, Francois brings the necessary commercial farming expertise and mentorship while FTG enables much needed access to bridging capital and most importantly, access to a niche market that is not easy to penetrate.
One of the key decisions taken by the partners in the initial stages of the business was to plan ahead and implement risk mitigation strategies to increase the probabilities of success. Firstly, there was a paradigm shift to plant the asparagus only under irrigation. In addition, Fresh To Go provided the necessary bridging finance to cover the costs of detailed soil analysis, soil rectification, water reticulation as well as seedlings to be planted on 40 hectares.
Earlier this month, MAC shareholders held positive engagements with First National Bank (FNB) in Bethlehem to discuss finance opportunities for the business. While asparagus production is on a relatively small scale in South Africa, the bank was reassured by the involvement of Fresh To Go who have more than 20 years’ experience on the production, processing and cold chain management of the crop.
The socio-economic objective of MAC is to create sustainable jobs for the community of Rosendal and contribute towards poverty alleviation in the area.
So, next time you visit your local Woolworths store, be sure to buy some fresh vegetables from the refrigerators, especially those containing asparagus. That way you will not only be supporting the work of PALS, you’ll also enjoy some seriously good asparagus.