Farmer Quadruples Fruit Production

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By Chrispin Inambao NOORDOEWER NICOLAAS van der Merwe, one of the farmers working a fertile piece of land at Noordoewer along the Orange River in southern Namibia, expects a bountiful harvest as his projected fruit yield this year would quadruple the quantity he picked last season. This energetic farmer says last year he harvested 500 cartons per hectare compared to a fourfold increase of 2 000 cartons per hectare expected in the 2005 season. Though the harvest would be good – with a projected yield exceeding a hundred thousand cartons of export-quality fruit each weighing 4,5 kg – ironically the colouring is not so impressive particularly in the Flame Seedless grape cultivar, he told New Era. Last year this hard-working farmer harvested 35 000cartons comprising Thompson Seedless, Flame Seedless, Prime Seedless and Sucra One from two farming units. He attributes the increased fruit harvest to better management and improved production methods in terms of fertiliser application, pruning among other issues. At the time of this interview he had already harvested 19 000 cartons of Prime Seedless planted on a six-hectare plot, while a yield of 19 600 cartons of Flame Seedless was harvested from an anticipated harvest of 20 000 4,5 kg cartons. Another 42 000 cartons consisted of Sucra One though the initial projected yield was 28 000 cartons. The popular cultivar Thompson Seedless contributed a total yield of 24 000 though he had earlier expected a harvest of 16 000 cartons from this particular grape cultivar. “It is indeed a very nice year for grapes. The management was good. The preparation was on time. The pruning was done at the right time. The removal of roots and leaves and the spraying of chemicals was done at the right time,” he said during the interview. “We are very positive about grapes,” he enthused. The farm employs eighteen permanent staff members and this year it increased its recruitment of seasonal labourers by sixty more workers to 140. The workers in the seasonal category are employed six months in a row from the time of the preparation of the vines, for instance the spraying and pruning of vines, to the time of harvesting. This year Van der Merwe, who packages his own fruit through Uhabis, a packing facility within his holding, awarded certificates of appreciation to a group of employees as a way of motivating them. Those awarded for a job well done were Sylvester Mulife, Asser Mwilima and Maswabi John Matongo. The certificates were awarded early this year. Temperatures at Noord-oewer soar easily to a blistering 52 degrees but the heat coupled with a rainless climate and the fertile soil are ideal for successful grape farming.