Wading through a sea of audit requirements can be daunting. However, the test will be easier if you as a breeder or packing station are assisted in the audit process by a consulting company like SkyVines. The team has experience with no less than 40 different audits and has an in-depth knowledge of South African legislation.
Much of SkyVines’ work takes place in the South African fruit sector, but the agency also helps rooibos, buchu and olive growers obtain export accreditation and has even provided services to the palm oil sector in Gabon, West Africa.
Like many other consulting companies, the company has three departments: Food Safety (led by Juanè Jooste), Health and Safety (led by Henk Jooste) and Environmental Monitoring (led by Alheit du Toit, entomologist trained).
Right: Alheit du Toit in Gabon, where SkyVines has provided health and safety services (palm oil plantations and processing plants) and road safety.
“I do not think the consumer always knows what problems the grower is facing,” notes Alheit.
Some of SkyVines’ customers have to pass eight or nine audits each year, which requires a huge amount of documentation. Especially with the small grower, he may lose heart when he has to prepare for an audit.
“Currently, there is the greatest demand for assistance for environmental audits from SIZA Environmental, Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Alliance Union of Ethical Bio Trade (RA UEBT) and SPRING (Sustainable Program for Irrigation and Groundwater Use).”
Get the most out of a growing business
SkyVines helps growers meet audit standards by implementing best practice management systems.
“We tell them not to multiply their efforts, but to go back to the basics. Many revisions require the water management program. So do not make different water management programs for each review, but create one that is good, based on the strictest standards and based on South African law, “he advises.
“We coach them to get the best out of their business, because audits open the door to a bigger world. But of course they must also continue with the systems once we are gone. For example, someone needs to be able to go into the office and get a immediate answer to the question: there was a food fraud problem, what are your risk procedures for this? “
On a monthly basis, SkyVines consultants visit their clients to help maintain the system throughout the year.
Many revisions require water management programs.
The company has been engaged by growers ‘associations such as the Citrus Growers’ Association and Hortgro to help beginners get accreditation for export.
SkyVines has helped growers of rooibos, buchu, olives, lemons and grapes achieve their organic certification.
Right: Rooibos cultivation (tea)
A first for the company is a recent request to help a tilapia farm achieve organic certification, but the consulting firm is still investigating whether that is possible.
Hot topics for the future
“The biodiversity of South African orchards is low,” notes Alheit, “but I expect this to change. It has become a hot topic and buyers from retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Albert Heijn, Aldi and Tescos are starting to ask about environmental practices at “A grower needs to know if there are potentially endangered species living on and around his plots or if there are wetlands that should not be harmed.”
Together with the University of Leeds, Alheit has researched ground cover and insect biodiversity in South African orchards, for example looking at native bee species in South Africa and their function in fruit production.
Alheit notes that there is not as much focus on bees and pollinators as it should be, but some fruit growers, such as blueberry growers, spray at night to reduce the risk of pollinators.
A beehive in an avocado plantation in the province of Limpopo
“I think the role of bees in the world is still underestimated,” he notes. One of the ad hoc services that SkyVines offers is the monitoring of the removal of non-native plant species, often including eucalyptus, which is paradoxically the most reliable source of beekeeping in South Africa all year round.
Calculating a company’s CO2 footprint is becoming commonplace
The electricity grid in South Africa is currently very unstable, which could derail a farm’s energy efficiency target.
Diesel generators are used at many packing stations during the frequent, often scheduled power outages (called load shedding).
Right: Health and safety training on a citrus farm
SkyVines helps growers collect data to measure a farm’s CO2 footprint through a carbon calculator. “The CO2 tax will have a direct impact on growers, so it is important to start measuring its CO2 emissions through various tools.” According to Alheit, the best CO2 calculator is Confronting Climate Change (CCC), a tool developed by Blue North Sustainability. There are also other freeware CO2 calculators, but it still requires some homework in choosing a suitable tool.
“Once growers start collecting the right information to complete the CCC tool, they can start looking at investing in CO2 tax compensation, which can be cheaper than paying a carbon tax. As a grower or exporter, you can further reduce your company’s CO2 emissions. footprint by investing in CO2 compensation from our eligible South African offset projects. “
SkyVines arranges training courses on the farms, such as the annual emergency evacuation training, including firefighting skills
Waste management becomes mandatory
Another, rather underexposed aspect, is waste management. “This too has become an important issue in farms and packing plants. In this area, we are helping with the preparation of long-term management plans.”
Last year, South Africa enacted an Extended Producer Liability Act (EPR), which requires packaging suppliers to pay a fee for the collection and recycling of packaging. The ERP aims to reduce the overall environmental impact of a product and its packaging.
“I believe that ERP will encourage packing stations and exporters to explore more options for managing their waste. Reviewing and reviewing existing waste management systems could potentially increase recyclability and / or reduce packaging consumption.”
Hiring seasonal workers is part of the revisions of the British Retail Consortium, which SkyVines facilitates.
For more information:
Alheit du Toit
Phone: +27 82 410 4389 (South Africa)