In South Africa, there are approximately 30,000 “commercial” farmers, who own the majority of agricultural land (between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares per farm) and nearly 300,000 smallscale producers, who produce around 5% of national marketed production. These small producers produce for their own consumption and a few local markets, but are struggling to organize and regroup in order to reach larger markets and generate decent income. The area they cultivate is often less than 5 ha, which limits their access to state subsidies. The limited volumes they produce individually, the lack of infrastructure and training do not allow them to access bigger markets.
The Fair Food Company was established in 1995 to support producers in the province of Kwazulu-Natal, west of Durban. Walter Coughman and Quinton Naidoo start the Fair Food Company project in the form of an NGO, and provide technical support to producers in the area. Faced with the lack of resources available to NGOs, in 2010 they decided to create the social enterprise "Fair Food Company" in order to bring together support for local producers and stable income for the company.
In 2013, they decided to develop the Edamame bean sector. It is a bean rich in protein and beneficial to agricultural land. Producers partners of the Fair Food Company have shown an interest in starting this production, as have the main South African retailers. At that time, the Fair Food Company developed its logistics platform at Mariannhill, 20km from Durban, where it receives, prepares and cleans the beans, packages them, and sells them to large retailers in the region. Since then, the company has extended its action to other strategic sectors: butternut squash, cabbage, salad ...
The Fair Food Company implements various actions to support smallscale and emerging farmers:
- Production support: A long-term contract is signed with each producer for the supply of a certain quantity of vegetables. The contract includes various services provided by the company: distribution of seeds, inputs, training in techniques more respectful of the environment.
- Processing and packaging of products: Vegetables produced by small producers received at Mariannhill are washed, processed (peeled and cut) and then packaged. This phase makes it possible to respond to a demand from the distribution, to add value to the product and thus to increase its selling price and therefore the cost price for the producer.
- Marketing: For 4 years, the Fair Food Company has been supplying a few retail chains with pre-cut vegetables and restaurants that need ready-to-eat vegetables in large quantities. The company has particularly developed commercial links with Woolworth, and more recently with Pick-n-Pay. 80% of the Edamame beans sold in Woolworth stores are produced by small producers through the Fair Food Company.
The Fair Food Company works with around 1600 small producers in the province of Kwazulu-Natal, and 120 emerging farmers (larger farms). Among them, 80 produce Edamame beans.
The company, which hired 12 people 6 years ago, has now created 50 full-time jobs to carry out processing, producer support and administrative activities.
The Little Extra
The Fair Food Company has developed an inclusive governance system, which can be compared to a form of cooperative. 40% of the business is owned by farmers, and 19% by the Fair Food Company foundation. Farmers are involved in the decision making processes.
The municipality of eThekwini (Durban) has been particularly involved in the enterprise since its beginning. It especially supported the project financially at its start.
Thereafter, the Fair Food Company wishes to increase its supplies from small local producers. Indeed, today the company needs to buy raw vegetables from the wholesale market in Durban in order to meet the partner retail chains demand in pre-cut vegetables. Small farmers are not yet producing enough to supply the market stably.
Last modification : 03 May 2020.
The Fair Food Company
The Fair Food Company was established in 1995 to support producers in the province of Kwazulu-Natal, west of Durban.