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Fairtrade citrus from South Africa comes to New York City

by Tad Thompson | August 16, 2010
Fairtrade-certified summer citrus from South Africa was featured in 16 Food Emporium stores in Manhattan the third week of August.

This promotion was organized by importer Fisher Capespan, based in Gloucester City, NJ. Fisher Capespan President Marc Solomon and South African citrus grower Gerrit van der Merwe presided over samplings of the Fairtrade fruit Aug. 16 in an upscale Food Emporium that is within the foundation of Manhattan's 59th Street Bridge.

Mr. van der Merwe is chairman of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum. The Navel orange samples were grown at the Cedar Citrus farm near Citrusdal, which Mr. van der Merwe jointly owns with 36 of his employees. The joint venture is one of 15 similar Harvest of Hope operations and is funded in part by all the farmers' citrus exports to the United States, according to a press release from the Western Cape Citrus organization.

The citrus forum said that Fairtrade is "the organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries."

The Navel oranges promoted at the Food Emporiums are part of a comprehensive South African economic empowerment program launched 11 years ago. The program, Harvest of Hope, is part of an ownership and development program for South African workers on citrus farms belonging to growers who are members of the Western Cape Citrus Forum.

Mr. Solomon told The Produce News Aug. 17 that it was good to have Mr. van der Merwe present at the sampling in part because the appearance of a grower made it easier for consumers to relate to the Navels' source.

The Cedar Citrus Harvest of Hope partnership between Mr. van der Merwe and his employees was established in 1998 when he donated a 100-acre parcel of land to the partnership. Since then, 36,000 trees of the best citrus cultivars have been planted to ensure the highest export quality possible, according to the forum's press release.

Mr. van der Merwe said that the Harvest of Hope projects support a wide range of development initiatives, including skills development and transfer, education and training, health care (with a particular focus on dealing with HIV and AIDS), child care and leisure time development. "These projects create an asset base for farm employees to exercise at their discretion, allowing them to secure a sustainable future for their families," the forum noted.