Milaan Thalwitzer, Non-executive Chairman of The Bosveld Group, Citrus fruit producers in South Africa explains what it means to them to give something back. One of the family firm’s great strengths is its rootedness in its community. Many family firms turn their relationships into a unique competitive advantage, and take pride in the positive role they play in creating local employment, and supporting local communities. The Bosveld Group, of South Africa, is a great example.
The company was founded in the 1960s, and is now South Africa’s largest private citrus fruit producer, exporting 5.5 million boxes of fruit to 50 countries across the world.
Milaan Thalwitzer, is the current non-executive chairman, and three of his sons-in-law hold management roles, with one as CEO. Milaan was named National Farmer of the year in 2014, in recognition of the company’s commitment to land reform, and making the black empowerment agenda a reality.
Bosveld committed to Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (or BBBEE) thirteen years ago, and is now involved in a number of pilot projects in which the company leases land from black communities on long-term contracts, and then pays rent from the proceeds of the fruit growing business. Training for local people is built into the scheme, so that the owners of the land get a chance to work on it too. “If we can get this right, it should be a win-win for everyone. Land reform is a complex and sometimes divisive issue here, but we can find a way forward if the farmers themselves play an active part in finding the answers.”
Bosveld is committed to South Africa, because the family has always been committed to South Africa: “When people ask me why we’ve been so successful I say it’s down to three things: keeping pace with change, seizing new opportunities, and our commitment to this country. In the next five years our plan is to make the most of the energy the next generation are bringing to the business, and empower our local communities so we make a positive and sustainable impact. We have no plans to diversify our fruit production internationally. South Africa is a land full of potential and we must first invest in our own future and the future of our people.”
And how does Milaan want to be remembered?
“As someone who was lucky enough to combine his greatest passions: my love for my family, country and community, and my love for farming.”