VENTURES: Crooke Eyes W Cape Expansion
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KWAZULU-NATAL-based agribusiness Crookes Brothers, best known for its sugar production facilities, is looking to markedly increase its Western Cape acreage.
Crookes owns the Ouwerf farming facility near Grabouw where it currently grows mainly apples and pears on 390 hectares. Last year Crookes announced a three-year plan to increase the area of orchards to 500 hectares.
The move is fairly surprising since Crookes’ deciduous fruit production in the 2011 financial year of 13 933 tons was 25% below that of the previous year.
Then again, part of the decline was explained, in part, by the significant replanting undertaken on farms purchased in the past two years. But Crookes directors did concede a major reduction in yields was experienced throughout the Elgin-Grabouw-Villiersdorp region.
Even though prices firmed during the year (especially locally) the deciduous fruit division incurred a R600 000 loss after racking up a R10 million loss in the 2010 financial year.
But after the release of Crookes’ interim results to end March directors – who had already agreed to expand the deciduous orchards by 100 hectares – agreed to increase the orchards by another 40 hectares.
The expansion is significant, and it should be remembered that Crookes has pushed the deciduous angle fairly hard over the last five years.
In 2007 there was only 171 hectares of deciduous fruit under cultivation, producing just 4 179 tons of apples and 688 tons of pears. This grew to 11 546 tons of apples and 2 387 tons of pears in 2011, but apple production topped 15 000 tons in 2010 and pears reached over 3 800 tons in 2009.
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