Walmart Introduces Direct Farming to South Africa

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Walmart is the world’s single biggest employer and has faced their share of bad press and scandals. With its entry into SA though, they appear to be trying to turn that around with initiatives like direct farming.

Last week Walmart and Massmart celebrated the first harvest from its local direct farm initiative and despite a rocky start; they even had the full support of a local government department, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

For local farmers like Jamela Mogodi, the direct farming initiative has provided an opportunity she could not have previously imagined. The state may have been able to provide her with the funding necessary to grow her farm, but she only had access to small local markets. Without access to a large scale market, she would have had no means to properly utilise her land and may have had to remain a small scale farmer. That will all change this week though as her green beans and butternut will soon be making it onto the shelves of Game’s Foodco and Cambridge Food stores.

The direct farm initiative forms part of the R100m supplier development fund which Walmart had to agree to as a condition to the R16bn merger. To begin with, the project will work with 30 to 50 small scale farmers in Limpopo to supply Massmart with fresh produce but it is hoped that approximately 1,500 farmers will be integrated into the Massmart supply chain by 2016.

This goal isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem to some. Walmart has already implemented direct farming in China and India with great success. Walmart’s Ramesh Subbiah said, “We started with one farm in India and now have about 2,000 farmers involved in direct farming.”

All in all, the project is good for farmers, good for retailers and good for the consumers as costs are kept minimal and the middle men are removed. At this point it’s simply a bonus if Walmart’s image sees some polishing up.

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