Rekopane estate completes tough season
Article and Photographs by Fred Meintjes
In November 2005 the people of Rekopane Estate in South
Africa’s Orange River region started out on a new
venture – one of partnership between the family
of well-known table grape grower Peu Bezuidenhout and
65 workers who have played a major role in the development
of the business. The name Rekopane, which means “we
have come together” is an apt way to describe this
By the end of the summer Rekopane Estates had exported
its first crop of more than 500 000 cartons of export
grapes. New citrus orchards have been planted and the
raisin and wine grape crops have been harvested. The rose
tunnels have produced their bunches of roses for Valentines
Day and the almost everyone has had a good rest after
a hectic season.
And the 65 new shareholders have learnt that the table
grape business is not easy and they have to sell their
products in a fiercely competitive market. But this lesson
is part of the reality of being co-owners of a large business.
“But now it is no longer just a business, it is
our business,” says Jack de Wee, co-director of
Rekopane and Chairman of the Lorethabetse Trust, which
holds the 25% share of the 65 farm workers and their families
in Rekopane Estate.
Located on the banks of the mighty Orange River near Kanoneiland,
west of Upington in South Africa’s Northern Cape
Province, Peu and Surine Bezuidenhout and their family
of Naftali Estates, were already known as some South Africa’s
best known seedless grape growers the idea of Rekopane
was even formed. As the Biblical meaning of the word Naftali
indicates, Peu Bezuidenthout really “fought and
have conquered” the harsh climate of this desert-like
region with true pioneering spirit to build a successful
Twenty-five years after starting with just 6 hectares,
the sweet and juicy grapes from this farm has become the
benchmark for producers elsewhere in the world. Now Rekopane
Estates is ready to take this to a new level and the new
members of the Lorethabetse Trust are beginning to experiencing
the true meaning of the Tswana word, Lorethabetse, which
means “the sun has risen for us.”
Rekopane is a land transformation project which is supported
by the Department of Land Affairs through its LRAD funds.
The estate also enjoys financial support in the form of
a loan from Standard Bank. And it is through this support
that the new shareholders have become co-owners, but also
learnt the harsh reality that nothing comes easily. The
Standard bank loan needs to be repaid within ten years.
REKOPANE now consists of 528 hectares of land of which
212 hectares are planted with table grapes. Future expansion
will include 68 hectares of new table grape varieties
and 60 hectares of citrus fruit. The new orchards and
vineyards will be developed over the next three years.
Amongst the popular grape varieties that will be exported,
are Prime, Flame Seedless, Thompson Seedless, Sugraone,
Victoria, La Rochelle, Red Globe and Dan-ben-Hannah. Reekopane
prides itself on only the best and grape production takes
place in harmony with nature. The natutral vegetation
and wild life is protected and all the orchards have been
certified in terms of the international environmental
and food safety standerds, such as EurepGap, Tesco’s
Nature’s Choice, BRC and Investors In People.
The grape season starts in mid-November and the last
cartons are packed at the end of January. From the orchards
and modern pack houses on the estate, the grapes is
transported by road over 800 kilometers to the port
of Cape Town, from where it is shipped to customers
around the world. Apart from growing grapes, Rekopane
will soon also be a producer of high quality Star Ruby
grape fruit, with 60 hectares being planted. There is
also a wine grape production, as well as a significant
volume of raisins.
The investment in people has always been of high priority
at the estate and extended to social, cultural and health
enrichment in the wider farm community and the local
school and church received strong support from the Bezuidenhout
The People Development Programme at Rekopane has recently
received certification by the Investor in People Standard
which is based in the United Kingdom.
A Capespan Foundation grant for training and development
over the next three years will significantly enhance
people development. Well-known skills trainer Mercia
Stow will run these programmes.
The establishment of Rekopane Estates also inspired
Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who described the
birth of this new partnership as another historic day
in the relationship between land-owner and land-worker.
“It is through working together that we will build
up our country for our children and our children’s
children, where all can walk tall and reach for the
stars,” Arch Bishop Tutu said in a message at
the launch of the partnership.
When the shareholders responded with two cartons of
grapes at the start of their season, Arch Bishop Tutu
called it a “tasty gift, some of the best I have
Rekopane, on the banks of the Orange River, is a story
of inspiration, of feeling for people, of man’s
interaction with nature to produce the finest grapes
in the world.