Blueberries : South African blue gold.
Last year the South African blueberry industry experienced seismic tremors which have started to prise open the grip that blueberry grower-exporters have had over the nascent industry.
Today Tiaan Rossouw of Rainbow Superfood, who was at the epicentre, states emphatically: “We've seen firsthand we do much better when we do it ourselves. The only way that blueberry growers are going to survive is to obtain nursery plants themselves and deciding on the marketing themselves. There's value in managing the whole chain yourself.”
Quite a lot of value, in fact. “It's not a rumour – in taking over the marketing for one of our growers, we managed to double the returns he was getting previously.”
He cites a lack of transparency regarding prices as a major impediment to growers, some of whom struggle to get by on current earnings which are, he claims, incommensurate with market prices.
“We just want to know what really happens to our berries. It's not too much to ask.”
He spreads the marketing of his crop across nine exporters plus a portion which he handles himself. Rainbow Superfoods is one of the largest suppliers from South Africa to markets outside Europe over three continents and in fifteen countries.
The pivot of their operations is their new packhouse in Paarl, which is South Africa's first fully independent and bespoke blueberry packhouse, with a Unitec sorting line (“the Rolls Royce of blueberry sorting”, he says) and a capacity of 1,500 tonnes per month.
Author Carolize Jensen