Challenge turned to opportunity with the right partners
Farmer's Weekly|July 30, 2021
Corona beer, which originated in Mexico, is traditionally served with lime. But when beer-brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev added the brand to its line-up, it encountered a problem: a shortage of limes in South Africa. This presented a novel opportunity to increase local lime production and develop new farmers. Lindi Botha reports.
Lindi Botha

While South Africa is one of the largest citrus producers in the world, lime production lags far behind, with a minuscule total of fewer than 100ha planted to this crop, compared with about 16 000ha planted to lemons. Moreover, South Africa has conducted little research on limes, and only a handful of cultivars are grown locally.

With limes growing in popularity in recent years, thanks to healthy eating trends, South Africa has to import most of its requirements. This comes at a great cost to the consumer, leading to many people substituting limes with lemons, to the detriment of flavor profiles.

This was the challenge that beer company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) faced when Corona beer became part of its range after the company’s merger with South African Breweries.

Josh Hamman, AB InBev’s director of agricultural development and sustainability, says Corona beer, which is originally from Mexico, is normally served with a slice of lime as it greatly enhances the taste.

“We found that South Africans were using lemons instead, which taste completely different. The reason was that limes are very expensive, as there is [little commercial] production in South Africa.”

AB InBev saw this as an ideal opportunity to invest in local lime production and simultaneously fulfill its mandate to develop sectors linked to its business.

LIMES IN LIMPOPO

“As part of our merger agreement, we had set aside R1 billion to invest in local industries,” says Hamman. “Limpopo was one of the provinces in which we didn’t have a project, mostly as it isn’t an area where our beer inputs can be grown. So we looked at expanding the criteria beyond our direct inputs to include products connected to our supply chain. “When the issue surrounding the limes cropped up, we realised this was the perfect opportunity to invest in Limpopo.”

Having the right partners on board is an essential ingredient in the success of such an undertaking. While AB InBev conceived of the lime project more than two years ago, it took time and dedication to find the most suitable partners.

“This isn’t the kind of decision one makes in the boardroom,” says Hamman. “You need to do your due diligence and go out into the field to see what’s happening on the ground.

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