Setting The Standards In Table Grape Production

FarmBiz|June 2020

Setting The Standards In Table Grape Production
Known for its high standards throughout the production chain, the Modderdrift table grape farming enterprise has set the benchmark for the table grape industry, giving it a competitive advantage when it comes to export markets.
Hugo Lochner

Better prices, greater savings and higher profits are just some of the benefits being reaped.

A family affair

Modderdrift is a family business with farms at De Doorns and Worcester and has been in the Beukes family’s possession for more than 100 years. Brothers Jacques and Eugene are the fourth generation on the farm and are proud to be building on the solid foundation laid by their father, Pieter.

Today, Modderdrift produces, packs, and exports high-quality table grapes. Total production has increased by more than 500% over the past 14 years – from 200 000 cartons of 4,5kg each to more than 1 million cartons, which are exported to countries around the world.

The grapes are cultivated on 200ha; 140ha is located in the Hex River Valley at De Doorns and 60ha at Brandwacht near Worcester. Preparations are being made to plant an additional 40ha at Brandwacht.

Although Jacques, who takes care of marketing, and Eugene, who oversees production, each run a clearly defined aspect of the business, they have sufficient knowledge to cover for one another, should the need arise. This is thanks to one of the most valuable lessons their father taught them, namely that you always climb a ladder from the bottom up.

“We had to start at the bottom and gain knowledge at each level of the business,” says Jacques. “We are now reaping the rewards as we are able to make informed decisions to the benefit of the business as a whole.”

The industry benchmark

Their father also taught them that the business must be in the green, i.e. without production debt, at least once every year.

“In an intensive and competitive industry such as ours, this requires innovative thinking. In fact, you can only achieve this if you are at the cutting edge in every aspect of the business. That is why we decided to set a benchmark for the industry in every branch of the business, including our vineyards, packhouses, traceability, food security and hygiene,” says Jacques.

“You must set yourself apart from the rest and ensure that you are a leader, not a follower. By choosing this direction, we have established ourselves as the leader. Today our product looks and tastes better and has a longer shelf life than that of our peers.”

Jacques explains the rationale behind them handling their own marketing. “You cannot aim to be at the forefront of every aspect of the business and then hand over your product to someone else for marketing. That is why we take care of our own marketing and here, too, we have set the standard.

“Our calculations show that we save approximately 7% in commission by doing our own marketing. We also achieve savings of between 2 and 5% in terms of our logistics, which means a greater return on investment, as well as a 5 to 10% saving in purchases as we buy in bulk. These savings are pure profit.”

Driven by goals

Jacques says it is important for them to set clear goals for the business. Modderdrift’s ultimate goal is to be profitable and sustainable in the long term. “You must ensure that your cash flow is never under pressure. For that reason, it is vital that every level of the business is evaluated after every season.”

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June 2020