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Houmoed Trust must keep the faith and show discipline

The emerging farmers of Houmoed Trust is going through a serious learning curve, but with more discipline and adherence to the rules of tobacco planting, there is no reason why they cannot make it to commercial level, says MASDT External Facilitator and Agri Economist Dr Piet van Zyl.

Houmoed Trust comprises of 11 emerging farmers who farm on 102ha near Deyselsdorp in the Oudtshoorn District in the southern Cape. This is the first season that they have ventured into tobacco cultivation by planting 3ha of Sun Cured Virginia (SCV) seedlings. Houmoed Trust is attempting to diversify their enterprise and have also planted 40ha with lusern, 4,5ha with a range of vegetables, and 2ha with onion seeds. Individually they own a few goats, sheep, pigs and head of cattle - mainly for own use.

However, the Trust is riddled with debt and much of what is produced is sold to offload that debt. Their market for vegetables is Pepmark in Oudtshoorn, while Klein-Karoo Seed Production in the town supplies the onion seeds. However, almost all of the income from the onion seeds is paid to the seed producer to cover loans.

“The problem with Houmoed Trust is that they lack discipline. Willingly, or unwillingly, they don’t heed extension advice. They went against production programme guidelines and planted the tobacco seedlings in too wide rows to make harvesting easier, thereby losing most of their profit. As a result they may have difficulty paying back their production loan this year,” Dr Van Zyl says.

“There is also a lack of discipline. Over the Christmas Holidays for instance - the most important and most intensive time of tobacco production - they just upped and left to go on holiday. That resulted in a couple of hectares of SCV going waste. This needs to change, but I think they have learned the hard way and be more diligent in the next season.”

According to Houmoed Chairman Platjie de Villiers, the farm has always struggled to keep its head above water. The current members have been there for the past four years and became shareholders with the previous owner. However, the farm was liquidated and placed on the open market.

“We then negotiated with the Department of Land Affairs in George, who agreed that we could rent it for R20 000 a year. The undertaking was that we would maintain the implements. We were also promised a subsidy, but nothing came of that. If we could qualify for a loan, we would buy the farm outright at the price the government sets,” De Villiers says.

To their credit, Houmoed members are keeping the faith and laud MASDT for its involvement. “This is the first time that we are working with tobacco so we have much to learn. We planted about 20 000 SCV seedling per hectare, but I do not wish to make a guess about profits yet.

“We aim to harvest all the tobacco from the land and by 10 May it will be in the curing tunnels. Then we will start thinking towards profits. One thing is for sure, we do see a future for ourselves with tobacco and this season’s planting was just a trial run. Maybe next year we can move onto five or 6ha - if MASDT remains involved with training,” he says.

Houmoed buy their seedlings from Riaan Moore in Patensie and use flood irrigation to water the plants. Some of this season’s tobacco has been cured and are ready to be boxed for delivery to Limpopo Tobacco Processors (LTP) buying station at Oudtshoorn.

Pictures:


Wrong planting methods could cost Houmoed Trust dearly in terms of profits.


Dr Piet van Zyl, MASDT External Facilitator and Agri Economist, inspects Houmoed’s SCV crop.


Chairman Platjie de Villiers with SCV tobacco curing in a tunnel.

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Lusern is part of diversification at Houmoed Trust.

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