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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 23:42 GMT
SA farmers hope for wine profits
By Orla Ryan
BBC News business reporter in South Africa

Patrick and Susan Kraukamp
From forklift driver to award-winning wine maker

Talk to Patrick Kraukamp and it becomes clear how much - and how little - South Africa has changed in the 10 years since the end of apartheid.

Mr Kraukamp used to work as a forklift driver and a labourer at the famous Paul Cluver wines company in Cape Town.

He barely drank wine, preferring beer.

Now, he is an award-winning wine maker and part-owner of Thandi wines, the first wine to be accredited to Fairtrade.

In a short time, he and the other Thandi owners have come a long way - but they have still some way to go before they achieve commercial success.

Co-operation

The story of Thandi wines begins in 1996, two years after the first multi-racial elections were held in South Africa.

The Cluver family gave 100 hectares of unfarmed land from their 2,000-hectare farm to the 147 people living in villages close to their farm.

The South African Forestry Company, Safcol, also donated land.

The Cluvers, who had a stake in the new business, worked with the villagers, who were new to commercial farming, to produce first fruit and then wine.

Several other farms have since joined the Thandi initiative.

The pressure to get involved in such initiatives is stepping up - under the government's proposed Agricultural Charter, about 35% of all industry should be under black ownership by 2014.

South Africa's farmers need only look to the farm seizures in Zimbabwe to appreciate the need to participate in black empowerment initiatives, Paul Cluver says.

He says: "I don't think any business has a long term future if it is not in the community, whether you are Thandi or Microsoft or Tesco. Inherently the community is a stakeholder."

Commercial pain

Thandi vineyards
The Cape Town vineyard produces for UK supermarkets

The political and social logic for Thandi may be clear, but the ultimate test will be commercial success.

So far, Thandi has benefited from the help of heavyweight commercial players, such as South Africa's largest fresh fruit exporter Capespan and wine exporter Vinfruco.

Thandi fruit is already profitable and is sold in Waitrose and Tesco. It now needs to get its wine on UK supermarket shelves.

It has six million rand ($1m; 540,000) from the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) to help it get supermarket listings for the wine, with the money provided on the basis that Thandi will break even within three years.

The Fairtrade accreditation does offer a commercial advantage but Thandi knows that once the wine is on the shelves, quality and price will be key.

"That quality is what we want to focus on. You can't sell wine on social issues," says Rydal Jeftha, Thandi general manager.

Trade not aid

Mr Cluver agrees.

"It recognised the lack of skills and experience and tried to overcome these shortcomings."

This logic may appear self-evident, but projects that mean well often overlook the importance of commercial success.

Wine maker Patrick Kraukamp
Thandi's winemakers have won awards
Mr Cluver questions the validity of such donor-funded projects.

"If you have a partner with a vested business interest then he will make sure the project will succeed. If you have to part with your own money, it is a different story," Mr Cluver says.

"You want someone who is committed to the project, not just participating in it."

Patrick Kraukamp's new-found wine expertise was hard won. He travelled extensively to get the training he needed to make world-quality wine.

He and the other owners of Thandi realise that that the financial rewards will be slow in coming. They received their first and only dividend of 280 rand last July.

"As they get money, people will feel they are owners of the farm. Our people understand that, they know they must work very hard to make this farm a success," his wife Susan says.

Susan Kraukamp laughs as she tells me she has done very well for someone who didn't finish school.

"There are opportunities; it is not like in the past."


SEE ALSO:
South African women learn to earn
07 May 04 |  Business


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