Dutoit celebrates 130 years in South Africa

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The Dutoit Group is celebrating 130 years as a leader in South African agriculture. From Gysbertus du Toit settling on Kromfontein Farm in the Western Cape and planting the first fruit trees in 1883, to becoming one of the largest family-owned fresh produce businesses, this trendsetting agricultural investment company has a lot to celebrate.

Through innovation and dedication, this company is a top producer and distributor of high-quality fruit and vegetables in South Africa, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, Dutoit continues to thrive and has experienced continuous growth over the years, always prioritising customer satisfaction as well as business and green practices integration.

The organisation incorporates the Du Toit Family empowerment initiative and Dutoit Group, which includes Dutoit Agri, and Newtrend Farms, which focusses on joint ventures with existing successful producers, Dutoit Invest, Dutoit International and Libland.

A truly international brand

Dutoit is a global brand that has strong roots in South Africa and successful collaborations and investments worldwide. These enhance their existing operations and provide valuable opportunities and connections for future growth in terms of market access, product development and new technology.

Approximately 200km north of Cape Town lies the Koue Bokkeveld, which is literally translated as ‘cold antelope shrubland’ with winters so harsh that the original settlers had to be paid special subsidies to settle in the area. But with its fertile soil and fresh mountain water, Dutoit’s original stronghold has become synonymous with quality South African produce for both local and international consumption.

Today, Dutoit has almost 5 000ha of fruit and vegetables under irrigation in the lower altitude Warm Bokkeveld, the Berg River and Sandveld regions as well as in the Langkloof in the Eastern Cape, in addition to the original higher altitude Koue Bokkeveld region.

Expansive, diversified production

Traditional and new varieties of apples and pears make up the bulk of Dutoit’s produce, along with stone fruit which includes nectarines, plums, peaches and cherries. Dutoit packs 140 000 tonnes of fruit and 78 000 tonnes of vegetables annually.

When it comes to vegetables, Dutoit Vegetables incorporates six farms, specialising in onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Annually, 50 000 tonnes of onions, 20 000 tonnes of potatoes, 8 000 tonnes of sweet potatoes, as well as shallots, pumpkins and fresh garlic, are produced. 

“While there has been significant innovation and transformation in agriculture over the last 130 years, what has remained resolute is our mission to produce, pack, market and distribute quality fresh produce for our clients and customers,” said Willem Coetzee, chief operating officer at Dutoit Agri.

The company cherishes its family heritage and values, which are reflected in the active involvement of the fourth and fifth generations of Dutoit family members in the daily operations. Henrie du Toit, who will soon succeed Pieter du Toit as the CEO, is one of them.

Implementing innovative, sustainable solutions

The integration of green practices and caring for the environment has become a key focus for Dutoit over the last few decades. Commitment to implementing innovative sustainable solutions, management of biodiversity, the responsible use of natural resources and the minimising and responsible handling of waste are key to their operations. Operations within the Dutoit Group focus heavily on the long-term sustainable use of water, with the organisation having implemented infrastructural changes and the use of short-radius micro-sprinklers or drippers to use water effectively and with as little wastage and evaporation as possible. The health of the soil and maintaining a healthy soil ecosystem are also integral to their sustainable agricultural model.

Minimising food waste

To decrease food waste, Dutoit and Good Hope Fruit partnered with retailer Pick ‘n Pay and launched the Hail to Heroes campaign this year, which promotes the merits of cosmetically blemished produce. With hail hitting the apple orchards multiple times affecting all apple varieties over the last year, most notably in November 2022, and again in February this year, this campaign educates consumers that the inside of the apple is unaffected, even if there is a blemish or slight bruising on the skin. Hail to Heroes alsocreates jobs up and down the supply chain, positively affecting the economy and uplifting the local communities.

Locally, Dutoit Invest strives to unlock various opportunities in the secondary agricultural sector, specifically when it comes to the processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables, to improve productivity, profitability and sustainable production systems.

A passion for people and producers

Another element of the company’s ongoing success is its passion for its people and producers. During peak harvesting season, Dutoit employs more than 8 000 workers and is committed to the recruitment, training and development of the people who work on their farms and in the surrounding communities. 

“As a leading farming, packing, marketing and distribution enterprise, we recognise that our employees underpin the core of the business and that it is our social responsibility to empower and support the people in the communities we operate in,” Coetzee said.

For decades already, Dutoit has developed productive partnerships with leading experts in the field of social development to significantly improve the well-being of communities, create a feeling of inclusiveness, and motivate employees to take part in the development of their communities.

Youth education, healthcare, social development, sport and recreation are some of the pillars of the socio-economic development initiatives run by Dutoit. This includes maintenance of the primary schools located on the estates and study schemes, loans and bursaries to enable children of employees to progress into tertiary education. A health plan sees qualified nurses, trained healthcare workers and fully equipped clinics provide services every week at the various farms and pack houses.

A proud legacy

“We are incredibly proud of the legacy that Dutoit has established over the last 130 years, a testament to our commitment, resilience and dedication to excellence. We want to pay tribute to every person who has played a role in our success, most importantly our employees who nurture our produce and handle it with the care it needs to ensure that the best quality products reach our customers,” said Coetzee. 

Coinciding with the Group’s 130th birthday was a recent staff appreciation event, which saw 65 staff members receive long-service awards, one of which was Gys du Toit senior, who celebrated 50 years at the company. – Press release, Du Toit Group