Van Loveren's proud tradition of empowerment
In 2006, before generic codes on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) were even in existence, Van Loveren entered a two-tiered deal with its staff and pensioners – many who have been with the farm for three generations.
The 138-hectare farm De Goree, bought by the Retief family in association with a winery workers’ trust in 2006, is a shining example of what can be achieved when the true objective is to invest in the future of South Africa.
"Land ownership is an important and emotional element of any such arrangement," says Van Loveren CEO Phillip Retief, "but we are confident that with our business model and the development of business and farming skills of our partners, we can sustain the long-term viability of this venture.”
De Goree, which is 52% owned by the workers’ trust, has signed a long-term grape supply contract with Van Loveren Private Cellar. Interestingly enough the farm has been profitable since the first year of operation. This contributed to Van Loveren being named top achiever in a national agriculture competition, scoring in all seven categories applied in the BEE judging.
Furthermore, in a joint venture with the trust, Van Loveren is known for its Five’s Reserve wine range, comprising a white wine, a rosé, two reds and a brandy. This is marketed locally to the tourist sector and internationally.
In spite of difficult economic circumstances wine and grape-growing farms find themselves in, we have a long history of staff upliftment and development. For many years all staff housing has been fully serviced with running water, electricity etc.; farm schooling was provided until community schools proved adequate and comprehensive staff training is provided. At the 2006 Rudnet Awards, funded by the SA Wine Industry Trust for good labour relations, Van Loveren scored 87%.
‘My colleagues and I at Van Loveren are delighted to be involved in this exciting development' says Niklaas Prins, a trustee of the De Goree Employees Trust, who has worked at Van Loveren for almost 24 years. 'Owning a share in the farm gives one a sense of security, but we all know that making a success of the grape farming and the Five’s Reserve wine range are the most challenging and important parts of the project.’
The Five’s Reserve wine range is also proudly Fairtrade accredited. Fairtrade, of course, is the leading international certification system for sustainable production and poverty reduction in the agricultural sector. It provides social, economic and environmental standards that are specifically dedicated to the empowerment of small farmers and farm workers whilst regulating production in a sustainable and environmentally sound way.
For every Five’s Reserve product sold, part of the profits goes back to the Van Loveren farming community, who in turn use this added income for social projects and to invest in small-scale farming.
“Empowerment on this scale requires a lot of dedication and commitment,” says Phillip. “Don’t even attempt it if you aren’t serious about it. You will face many obstacles along the way, but at Van Loveren we are highly privileged to have had such a long-term relationship with our staff. In fact, many have been a part of our family since our very first day of operation.”