SAB's lime farming success story benefits Limpopo community

21 February 2024 - 14:07
By Sisipho Skweyiya
'Paradise is best served with lime,' states one of the taglines in an advertisement for Corona beer. File image.
Image: Hendrik Hancke 'Paradise is best served with lime,' states one of the taglines in an advertisement for Corona beer. File image.

“Paradise is best served with lime,” states one of the taglines in AB InBev's advertisement for its premium Corona beer, which is typically served with a slice of lime wedged in the neck of the bottle.

But as the Mexican-origin beer gained popularity in South Africa, a shortage of limes threatened the essence of the drinking ritual, prompting AB InBev's South African Breweries (SAB) to invest R19m in a lime farming project in Limpopo.

“The challenge is that less than 10% of citrus farm land in South Africa was dedicated to lime,” said SAB corporate affairs vice-president Zoleka Lisa. “So there was a shortage of limes. It meant we were importing. Imported limes means you never know when they'll be available and also drives up costs.”

Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said much of the lime produced in South Africa is exported.

SAB partnered in 2020 with the Moletele community which provided the land in Limpopo and Komati Fruit Group to establish and run the 60ha farming project that now produces limes.

The lime harvest for the 2023 financial year was about 700 tonnes, more than double the target of 300 tonnes, said Komati CEO Piet Smit.

“It's quickly become the biggest lime farm in South Africa,” he told Reuters.

The project is not only benefiting the beer giant, but has also employed locals such as Pontsho Mathebula, a mother of two who is helping her community become South Africa's biggest lime producer.

“My life before working at Moletele lime project was difficult. I know poverty, I've experienced it. [Being] without a job is not easy,” the 39-year old said in her home after a shift at the farm, where she operates the irrigation system.

“Because of that job, my children will never go to school hungry. They will be able to have a school bag, shoes on their feet,” she said.