Nigel Klaasen, the 2022 Western Cape Prestige Agri-Award winner, enjoyed a market access capacity building tour to the Netherlands and attended Fruit Logistica in Berlin, Germany earlier this year.

The visit formed part of his first prize in the annual prestigious farmworker competition. He was accompanied by four fruit farmers, Andreas Klaase, Belinda Williams, Debrah Theunissen, and Liza Ambraal.

Awe-inspiring experience

Besides visits to farms in The Netherlands, the group also visited Fruit Logistica in Berlin, Germany. Fruit
Logistica is an international trade fair that covers all sectors of the fresh produce business, and showcases the latest innovations, trends, products, and services across the entire fresh produce value chain.

Nigel examines pears in a packing facility in The Netherlands.

“It made me realise how competitive the global fresh produce value chain is,” said Nigel. “I also learnt the significance of improving market share by keeping up with the latest trends and technology.”

He explains: “International commerce in fresh produce is conducted in the world’s most important commercial and communication arena, which is called Fruit Logistica.

Nigel Klaasen, the 2022 Western Cape Prestige Agri-Award winner, has just returned with fellow fruit farmers from a study tour to Europe. Here he is at an apple nursery in The Netherlands.

“Every year, trade visitors and exhibitors from 86 different countries attend the event with the goal of realising their full commercial potential and writing their own success narrative. It addresses every facet of the fresh produce industry and gives a comprehensive account of the most recent advancements in technology, merchandise, and services available at each stage of the global distribution network. It provides an excellent opportunity for networking and contact-making with the most influential decision-makers in every sector of the industry.”

It was the first time Nigel had ever been to an exhibition of such a magnitude. “It left a significant impression on me when I discovered that everything that was on display at the exhibition was connected to agriculture in some way.

“Everything, including the tools, the technology, the food, the fruit, and the dairy, originated on a farm. Because of this, I now have a better understanding of how essential the agriculture industry is, given that it is responsible for putting food on people’s tables.”

The group at the South African stand at Fruit Logistica in Berlin, Germany.

He learned a lot from the experience. “One of the most important factors is that South Africa is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of technological advancement. It is imperative that we acquire the knowledge necessary to figure out how to apply the technology that is already at our disposal in a manner that is compatible with our natural surroundings, our topography, and our climate, and that the results would improve crop yields.

“The possibilities that I have seen, as well as the concepts that South African farmers may put into action in order to advance their industry, were absolutely wonderful.”

Minor adjustments

The group of South African farmers braved the European winter weather to visit an apple orchard in The Netherlands.

He believes the knowledge he has acquired can be used to make some adjustments to the processes that are already in place to enhance the quality of the products. Also, how to adapt to the changing climate and which systems need to be put in place, for example, how to best protect the fruit from sun damage.

“I intend to incorporate everything that I have learned into my day-to-day activities, as even minor modifications can have a significant effect.”

He now regards farming as an art form. “I had no idea how huge the globe is or how much influence South Africa has not only on a regional level but also internationally.”

Fruit Logistica was also an amazing opportunity to see how differently other farmers do things. “It was an
eye-opening experience to view the entire supply chain, beginning at the port and continuing through the transit of produce until it was finally displayed on the shelves of the stores. Seeing our own products on the shelves was a fantastic experience!”

Historical trade relations

Londiwe Thabethe, Manager of Agricultural Economic Services at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, said that Fruit Logistica provides an excellent platform to showcase all aspects of the value chain, initiate business deals, and make contacts worldwide.

“South Africa and Europe have strong historical trade relations, with South Africa gaining market access to the European Union through the European Union Southern African Development Community Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-SADC EPA),” she said.

Nigel Klaasen with Allistar Moodie, owner of Fruitways.

The SADC EPA is a development focussed trade agreement. It offers more market access because 96% of South African products can be exported to Europe duty and quota-free. In comparison, 3% are subject to a tariff reduction. “Fruit Logistica supports the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s goal to improve market access for all farmers.”

Nigel Klaasen proudly displays a box of South African apples the group found in a supermarket in The Netherlands.

Warriors of hope

Western Cape Minister of Agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer described Nigel and the four smallholder farmers as ‘warriors of hope’.

“They inspire the sector,” he said. “They are hard-working and resourceful. They exemplify the reliance needed to enhance the Western Cape’s business competitiveness, investment, growth, job preservation, job creation, and maintaining and growing export opportunities.

“The Western Cape is South Africa’s leading exporter of primary agricultural products. The study tour cements our commitment to export growth and job creation in the Western Cape as it unlocks further opportunities for Western Cape farmers,” concluded Dr Meyer.