By Chrispin Inambao AUSSENKEHR TWENTY resettled farmers who for two seasons in a row were cheated out of their earnings by a greedy fruit merchant whom they eventually chased away for his flimsy excuses are finally set to taste the fruits of their sweat for the first time this year. Last year, they produced around 50 000 export-quality boxes but they have yet to receive a single cent and the agent whom they eventually hounded from the farm only gave contradictory information when they had pressed him to pay for their produce. Ironically, the Government that initiated the resettlement scheme appointed the evicted agent who seemingly out of greed pocketed almost all the proceeds from the grapes produced by the farmers on their plots at Grape Valley where they are resettled. The group, comprising five women and fifteen men, have since appointed another service provider, namely Daniel Goosen, the managing director of GrapeSmart, to deal with the production and the marketing aspects of the viable resettlement scheme at Aussenkehr. The farmers commended Goosen and GrapeSmart for being transparent and for sharing all the necessary information with regard to the market such as on pricing, that has not been the case with the person who initially conned them out of their hard-earned cash. “Since we started with this man he has been very open, every information is available,” said one of the resettled farmers Benzi Tjauira whose sentiments were also expressed by fellow resettled farmers who added they subsisted through their ill fate by selling other crops. “We are merely giving them guidance and technical support. We give technical advice and we also give the necessary training with regard to the table grape industry,”stated Goosen, whose services were enlisted in June 2005 but whose firm has ten years of experience in the production, marketing and exporting of table grapes. By the time New Era visited the group they had already packed 50 000 boxes out of a target of a 100 000 cartons expected to generate income of around N$3 million. A percentage of these earnings would go towards repaying some of the production costs in excess of N$1 million and for paying the NDC whose packing shed they use. The production costs were incurred through wages and for payment for fertilisers. And every resettled farmer produced over 4 000 cartons of export-quality fruit. Each of the beneficiary farmers is allocated a four-hectare piece of land on which they grow grapes and dates on two of the hectares while the remaining land is reserved for the production of cash crops such as tomatoes, onions and various green vegetables. Goosen says he tries to cut out logistical costs being commanded by middlemen involved in fruit marketing, as he intends selling the fruit produced by resettled farmers directly to supermarkets in the U.K. and in Europe, thereby maximising profit. The grapes produced by these farmers are marketed under the Freedom Fruit brand. Goosen says despite perceptions in certain quarters that resettled farmers are producing inferior-quality fruit, he is adamant this is not the case, insisting the Perishable Produce Export Control Board (PPECB), an international board, has given their fruit a thumbs up. GrapeSmart’s boss says the quality of the fruit produced by the resettled farmers is on par with the rest of the fruit harvested from other grape farms in the Grape Valley. “Up to now we did not have a single rejection because the fruit is of a good quality,” said Goosen who was flanked by several of the resettled farmers. The fruit produced by the farmers is being sold to markets in the U.K., France and the Netherlands and the bulk of their produce is Thompson Seedless, constituting 80 percent of their export while Sucra One is another grape cultivar they farm. – The resettled farmers include Risto Nambase, Bernard Second, Augustus Haiti, David Shikongo, Johnson Kashoro, Simon Olavi, Kaimbi Haitembo, Esther Kadhidhi, Agnes Shamu, Joseph Hamukanga, Annerie Shithigona, Erna Kanases and Reinhold Mukuve.
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