Sep 26, 2012, updated September 2012
Until 2003, the supply of chicory to our South African business was monopolised by one local supplier. However, price increases led to the import of 80% of our chicory from India at a lower cost. However, as Indian exports to Europe rise, the shifting supply and demand suggest the price of imported chicory will increase too. Therefore, Nestlé South Africa launched a project to improve the production of local chicory.
The first large-scale trials, in late 2008, focused on finding willing farmers, understanding the nature of local diseases and pests, and recording water absorption, soil type and climate, so that by the first planting season of 2009, 13 farmers had planted 19 hectares. In 2010, around 440 tonnes of raw chicory produced 90 tonnes of roasted chicory at the Estcourt factory.
In 2011/12, we expect to produce 505 tonnes of roasted chicory from 70 hectares, rising to 565 tonnes from 120 hectares in 2012/13.
Local farmers and Nestlé will both have a initial stake in the factory being established to process the raw chicory.
In June 2010, the farmers, officials and extension officers from the Department of Agriculture, the Deputy Mayor and Nestlé staff – agronomists and factory employees – attended a farmers' day, at which key issues were discussed, cultivation and harvesting demonstrations were given, future plans were agreed and awards presented.
Value to Society
The project focused on Weenen in KwaZulu Natal province, where available land, good soil and existing irrigation provided an opportunity to revitalise the local economy. In line with the Government's Land Redistribution Policy and Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) programme, the project centred on farms owned by black farmers whose ancestral land had been returned to them. The areas selected were close to our Estcourt factory, which uses chicory in RICOFFY, thus providing an established market and additional employment opportunities.
Value to Nestlé
To reach production targets, we need to continue to find solutions to the various challenges. Support from the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture has included a ZAR 3 million investment in tractors and other equipment, as well as mentoring from extension workers. Nestlé agronomists are assisting with farmer training and trials in cultivation, irrigation and seed treatment for germination, and a supplier for a registered herbicide to help with weed control has been located.