700 soccer fields of citrus fragrance: Christie Landman lives and works in an oasis of vitamins and scents. Tons of lemons, oranges and grapefruits grow on his plantation in northern South Africa, in the Limpopo province near the Letaba river. With its 480 hectares, the farm is one of 3,500 businesses in South Africa producing a total of almost two million tons of citrus fruits per year. An export quota of more than 60 percent makes South Africa the fourth largest exporter of the popular fruits worldwide.
Each Day Is Different
The farm in Limpopo has been a family business for decades. In the late 1970s, the trained agricultural economist Christie Landman took over from his father and has been running the business ever since. His sons are in charge of marketing and production, his son-in-law takes care of the finances. Five years ago, Landman founded the company CLB Fruits, in order to be able to export the fruits. He created two brands specifically for export: CLB Fruits and Nandzika, an African term meaning “tasty”. Meanwhile, the company exports more than two thirds of its plantation fruit to Europe, Russia, as well as the Far and Middle East. The remainder is sold on local markets or turned into fruit juice in a factory located only 30 kilometers away from the farm.
Apart from citrus fruits, the Landman family also cultivates small amounts of other fruits and vegetables for the local markets, especially a walnut variety called butternut and South African squash. They also breed chicken. It’s never boring on the Landman plantations. “Each day is different,” says the grower. Working with people of different cultures and personalities is especially challenging: 150 people are permanently employed on the plantation, plus 400 to 450 helpers during harvesting season. “Trust is therefore extremely important. We try to build up a relationship with every single person in our plantation, and we appreciate independent working,” says Landman. After all, it’s not possible to be everywhere at the same time on the huge premises.
Technology also supports the business. Landman is particularly proud of his new optical sorting machine installed in the packaging hall to make sure that only whole and healthy fruit makes it into the crates. “This has improved the average quality of the fruit crates significantly,” he says. In order to protect the citrus fruits from damage, and keep the amount of spoilt product at a minimum, the fruit grower sticks to the Bayer application plans when it comes to crop protection, fighting insects such as fruit fly, codling moth and mealy bug as well as fungal diseases. Landman counts mainly on Bayer crop protection products and appreciates the fact that he can get in touch with the local Bayer experts directly. “Their advice is very personal, practical and close to our business: Help usually comes right away,” he says.
And there is another ally, on which Landman could always count, at least recently: “We were very lucky with the weather during the past years,” he says with satisfaction. “There was enough rain and a lot of sunshine – the perfect combination for big fruit and high quality.”
Trust is extremely important. We try to build up a relationship to every single person in our plantation.