Potatoes South Africa Awards the First Ever Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year

Through an audited evaluation process Phophi Raletjena as announced as the Potatoes South Africa Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year.

The criteria for selecting the three finalists are that that the candidate must be a Potatoes South Africa Enterprise Development Programme producer who has been on the programme for at least 3 years or more. The candidate must plant a minimum of 5ha of potatoes, be a levy payer and have the ability to pay the required own contribution towards the programme. Candidates must participate in industry meetings and events organized by Potatoes South Africa. Candidates must also participate in the expansion programme or be able to expand without Potatoes South Africa support.

Phophi Raletjena started farming 15 years ago on communal land, planting cabbage. He was assisted by a commercial farmer, Auwke Jongbloed who was approximately 30 km away from him.  They decided to start planting a quarter hectare of cabbage and marketing it aggressively in the local village with a target market of 5000 households at that time.  The venture was successful and grew to twenty hectares.  As the demand grew, Phophi expanded by renting another 100 hectares on nearby private land when Auwke Jongbloed introduced him to potato production. 

He started potato production in earnest in 2010 on a small scale of 5 hectares, renting machinery from his mentor, Auwke. He grew from strength to strength and required more land for crop rotation.  A successful application to the Department of Rural Development enabled Phophi to lease the farm in Vivo where he has been farming with potatoes for the last six years.

Phophi joined the Potatoes South Africa Enterprise Development Programme, starting out with five hectares under potato production and has now expanded to 30 hectares under irrigation.

Phophi is vigilant against pests and diseases by inspecting his fields on a daily basis. He says: “The leaves are the factory and potatoes rely on the leaves for photosynthesis especially during the bulking stage. Once you lose your leaves to a disease or a pest, you may lose your crop. That is why it is important to treat your seed for preventative purposes and you need to control your soil and air borne diseases.”

To Phophi, yield is the key to success.  He aims for 50 tons per hectare as a benchmark on Mondials, but sometimes he harvests 55 tons. The bulk of the potatoes produced by Phophi is sold to Mozambican buyers unwashed in 10 kg bags. 

Phophi ascribes his success to the fact that, firstly by increasing his yield and secondly by the ability to source and access information and to learn from others.  He says that how you sell and price your product is very important as well as the relations with various stakeholders in the industry.  Phophi says: “In comparison to my peers I’d say that I have seen many who have started and failed on account of farming as a second option, not as the main source of your income. You want your livelihood to come out of it and you must make it work, that propels one to succeed.”