The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has supported the research needs of the alternative crops industry over the past five years with close to R9,2 million from its Alternative Crops Fund, with significant positive outcomes.
Alternative crops refer to crops such as berries, cherries, nuts, pomegranates, olive andhoneybush. These are smaller crops, but have the added benefit of beinglabourintensive, and requiring less water.
Alternative crops are also in high demand in export markets and fetch higher prices.
Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schafer said "The Department of Agriculture has been investing in research into these crops in order to ensure that they have the best chance of success. The highlabourintensity of these crops, coupled with increased export revenues, means that they have a positive effect on the agricultural economy."
Projects supported through the research fund include growth and production studies, irrigation, pests and diseases, quality grading, phytosanitary research, chemical registrations, root stocks, and new cultivars.
The Department also assists farmers growing these crops with market access support, and support at farm level, especially for emerging and small holder farmers.
The focus on alternative crops has seen an increase in the number of hectares of these crops planted in the province. Flyover data shows that the number of hectares of nuts grew by over 80% between 2013 and 2017, while berries grew by about 40%.
One of theflagshipshowcases of these alternative crops is the Cape Made Pavilion and the Cape Made Kitchen at the annual SA Cheese Festival. The festival will be held from 26-28 April 2019.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Opportunities