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The owners of South Africa's ALG Estates, one of that country’s leading producers and exporters of citrus, have been awarded the prestigious Farmer of the Year Award by the society of Agricultural Writers of South Africa. The annual award, now in its 33rd year, is among the country’s more coveted agricultural prizes.

Brothers Gerrit and Alwyn van der Merwe along with Gerrit van der Merwe Jr. earned the accolades based on their farming and scientific agricultural merit and exemplary achievements with good planning and dedication in all kinds of conditions and environments.

The van der Merwe bothers established the Citrus Producers Trust, opening the U.S. market for South African exporters. The organization is now known as the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, for which Gerrit van der Merwe currently is chairman of the WCCPF, and the consortium is comprised of some 300 South African growers that are eligible to export summer citrus to the United States.

"We are thrilled with this honor and so proud of all our workers," Gerrit van der Merwe said in a Dec. 20 press release. “While our fruit is exported all over the world, most is sent to the U.S. for summer citrus consumption. It is a privilege to fulfill market needs in the U.S. with fresh and delicious fruit and to be recognized as a fine producer of citrus.”

ALG Estate citrus can be found in Walmart, Costco, Wegmans, Whole Foods and other leading grocery retail markets across the United States.

Located in Citrusdal in the Western Cape about two hours northwest of Cape Town, ALG Estates has been in the van der Merwe family since 1750. It is comprised of five farms, produces 26 varietals of citrus, and pioneered the practice of orchard pruning resulting in increased production, less use of water, and a reduction in the reliance on pesticides.

ALG Estates operates its own packinghouse where the fruit is processed and packed, and employs 120 permanent staff and up to 500 more when the fruit is harvested.

ALG Estates is an innovative leader in the South African citrus industry. From 1975 to 2010, production has grown to 15,800 tons from 1,940 tons, an annual growth of more than 20 percent. In addition, their innovations have extended the citrus-producing season from five months to 10 months - the longest citrus season in South Africa. The brothers have recognized the value of fair labor and fair trade, and ALG Estates is an accredited Fair Trade member.