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CFG turns 100-years old

Tru-Cape shareholder Ceres Fruit Growers marks 100 years.

South Africa’s largest exporter of apples and pears, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, congratulates Ceres Fruit Growers (CFG) on their milestone anniversary – a century of production, packing, cooling, distributing and marketing of fresh apples and pears. CFG owns 50% of Tru-Cape, and are wholly owned by apple and pear growers.

Annually, CFG handles on average 135,000 tons of fresh apples and pears of shareholders and non-shareholders. This represents approximately eight million packed cartons for local and export markets.

The products are marketed in about 105 countries worldwide, including some of the most important markets and supermarkets in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, Asia, North America, Africa, and the South African domestic market.

CFG provides employment to 270 permanent and approximately 1,700 seasonal personnel, all from the greater Ceres community.

CFG stores, packs, and refrigerates various apple and pear varieties, each with its own unique requirements to ensure a fresh and appealing product for the end consumer. The business delivers a turnkey service to the 38 shareholder groups, cultivating world-class products through innovative and adaptable farming practices.

“We recognise that shareholders, customers, suppliers, and the community in which the company operates have made significant contributions to the successes of the past century,” the company says.

CFG is grateful for the support of all stakeholders, and long-term relationships are a cornerstone on which CFG can confidently continue to build.

“Our future reality is likely to look different from today, but we believe CFG has world-class and loyal shareholders who, along with knowledgeable personnel who share the vision and courage of our predecessors, will serve the changing markets, producers, and staff,” says CFG.

Historic milestones


The initial plantings of fruit trees were primarily for household use. The trees yielded high tonnage and demonstrated that the climate in the Ceres area is very favourable for fruit cultivation. This encouraged further expansion among the Ceres farmers.


The first recorded mention in the history of fruit exports from Ceres refers to Danie Joubert, owner of Morceaux farm, one of the first producers to plant orchards in Ceres. PM Cillié, the son of the renowned Piet Kalifornië from Wellington, purchased De Bosch farm adjacent to Ceres town in 1910.

Fruit packing occurred on the farms and originally involved various wooden crates. The packers filled the crates with “corkdust”, later replaced with wood wool, to keep the fruits in position.


PM Cillié and Piet Hugo planted the first apple trees at Vaalbult and Elandsfontein in the Koue Bokkeveld.


The inaugural meeting of Ceres Fruit Growers Cooperation Association Limited took place on Saturday, September 2, 1922, attended by 21 producers from the district.


The official registration of the association occurred on Saturday, January 13, 1923. At least four of the founding members were former officers who had served for Britain during the First World War. At the end of the war, these British officers settled on farms in the De Vlei area outside Prince Alfred’s Hamlet (P.A. Hamlet). The diversity of members contributed to the fact that more than two-thirds of the shareholders were English-speaking, and the minutes were initially kept in English.


The railway line was extended from Ceres Station to P.A. Hamlet, and the railways established a five-ton truck service from P.A. Hamlet to the Koue Bokkeveld. This encouraged further fruit cultivation in the Koue Bokkeveld since the Gydo Pass, with its steep and difficult terrain, was the only road connection between the Koue Bokkeveld and Ceres.

The establishment of Ceres Station significantly improved transportation to the Cape Harbour, but the increase in fruit temperature at the station during train loading was detrimental to fruit quality.

1929 was a good year, and the producers received up to six shillings and six pence (R31.90 today) per crate of Winter Nelis pears.


The official opening of the first cold storage facility of a separate cooperative, namely Ceres Cooperative Cold Storage Company (CCS), took place on Saturday, February 21, 1931.


A larger number of Afrikaans members joined the Association, and the first Afrikaans minutes were recorded. Significant damage was caused to crops in the Ceres district by codling moth in 1936.


The practice of forced cooling (continuous refrigerated air flow using a fan) of packed products was developed in Cape Town Harbour, significantly improving the shelf life of fruit.


The Deciduous Fruit Board was established following the approval of the Marketing Act. This law regulated the production and marketing of various agricultural products, including stone (apricots, peaches, prunes) and pome (apples and pears) fruits.

The Deciduous Fruit Board required all producers to supply their fruits, including those intended for preservation and drying, to the Board or an approved marketer.

The Board was solely responsible for price determination, quality standards, and logistical arrangements.


Langeberg Cooperative was established on April 4, 1940, for preserving fruits.


Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), an insecticide, was developed for the control of codling moth.


CFG purchased a portion of De Bosch farm for the establishment of a packing facility.


The first packing of a Bartlett apple and two Cutler graders took place. At that time, the Deciduous Fruit Board managed fruit exports, and all South African fruits were exported under the trademark “South African Fruit – D.F.B.”

Elizabeth (Lizzie) du Toit learned about pear packing from the farm manager at De Bosch, Pieter Retief, at the age of 14. Lizzie was part of the trial packing that took place in 1948 at the Deciduous Fruit Board’s drying shed. Koos Cillié, as a young man, was also involved in the trial and gained technical knowledge of sorting and packing from Lizzie.

After the Association officially began packing in 1951, Lizzie provided training to new packers. She was a beloved staff member and was known for her appreciation and praise for Pikkie Mouton, the first manager. She retired in 1991 and passed away shortly after.


The original trademark with the abbreviation CFG was designed in 1952.


The first single-strength juice was produced at Ceres Fruit Juices and Vitamin Company under the trademark Ceramin, a combination of Ceres and Vitamin.


Packhouse 2 was build. The staff compared the machine to the Springbok rugby team, and the nickname stuck.


In the early hours of January 29, 1958, at the peak of the fruit season, a fire destroyed the cold storage facilities at the Cape Harbour. CFG decided to establish its own cold storage rooms using ammonia technology. The unit consisted of eight smaller cold storage rooms.


76 houses were built for seasonal workers, owned by CFG. The areas where this housing was established were known as Volstruiskamp, Voetbalkamp, and Sandkamp. Today, these areas are still collectively referred to as Rooikamp.


Several successful trials of fruit packing in cartons were conducted at CFG. The cartons were not only cheaper and easier to handle but also allowed the brand to be displayed on all four sides and the top of the carton. The export markets quickly preferred cartons instead of wooden crates.


A concentrate plant was established for processing lower-grade fruit on CFG’s premises, the predecessor to Ceres Fruit Processors.


In 1972, after 20 years of service as CEO of the company, Pikkie Mouton retired.


During the 1980s, the CERES brand was developed.


CFG had a single-strength juice and concentrate plant on its premises. The plant continued to function as a division of CFG.

The first electronic weight-based grader, a Durand-Wayland, is installed in Packhouse 3. Both Packhouse 2 and 3 are designed to load the fruit directly onto train trucks after packaging. The Durand-Wayland sizer was painted green, but the cups that transported the fruit were pure white, which is why the machine was referred to as the “White Dress.” Initially, the machine had considerable downtime, and it was humorously referred to as the “white dress’s hem is hanging out again”.

On Thursday evening, January 13, 1983, the first actual night-shift packing, led by Dana de Klerk, took place in Packhouse 2. Although night-shift packing presents unique challenges, it was a successful solution to the need for increased capacity.


The municipality, together with CFG, built several houses in Bella Vista for the company’s employees. The development is still known today as the “Old Block.”

However, the company realised that it would be beneficial for workers to own their own homes, and since 1985, ownership was transferred to the workers on fair and affordable terms.

The price war in the single-strength juice market led to several negotiations between CFG and SAB. By the end of this year, a transaction with SAB was concluded, combining all the assets of the Ceres, LiquiFruit, and Fruittree brands to form a new company, Ceres Fruit Juices (Pty) Ltd.


Four shareholders, namely CFG, Two-a-Day, Kromco, and Goede Hoop Citrus, initiated an investigation into the establishment of a corrugated cardboard factory. This ultimately led to the establishment of APL Cartons in Worcester on March 1, 1988, and the official opening of the facility on December 8, 1988. The name APL is an abbreviation of Apples, Pears, and Oranges (“Lemoen” in Afrikaans), representing the shareholders’ core business.


CFG hires a registered nurse to assist with staff’s social, personal, and health issues. An equipped clinic is also put into operation, making a significant difference.


The Rietvlei residential area officially opens on June 1, 1992. Prospective homeowners, employees in service of CFG, were assisted by the company in acquiring ownership. The neighbourhood is officially known as Rietvlei, but residents refer to it as Egoli.


CFG transfers the concentrate plant’s interests to a new company, Ceres Fruit Processors (Pty) Ltd. The production mainly focuses on apple and pear concentrate, semi-filtered (cloudy) products, and a variety of purees. CFG shareholders, as well as CFG itself, still supply lower-grade fruit to CFP. The concentrate produced there is still partially sold to CFJ for the production of single-strength juice. CFG’s rich history in concentrate and juice manufacturing continues.


Packhouse 4 is build and equipped with an electronic Aweta grader imported from the Netherlands.


After the historic general election in South Africa in 1994, change became inevitable in various industries. This also led to the abolition of single-channel marketing on October 1, 1997. It is still regarded today as the most significant single change the fruit industry faced.

The packing of Bon Chretien pears continued to grow, and in the 1997 season, CFG packed over a million pear cartons. Unfortunately, the demand for green pears has declined worldwide, resulting in the removal of a significant number of Bon Chretien orchards.


Ceres Fruit Growers Co-operative Limited becomes a private company.

In 1998, Unifruco merged with Outspan, a company responsible for citrus exports, and Capespan was formed.


Following the conclusion of deregulation, Ceres Fruit Growers, Kromco, and Two-a-Day established a joint marketing company. Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing would manage the marketing of local and international fruit. CFG uses the Core trade brand, with their headquarters in Paarl, for C-shareholder fruit.


CFG decides to sell its interests in CFJ to Pioneer Food Group, ending CFG’s 21-year involvement in the single-strength juice market.


Both the old Durand Wayland and Moltrein units in Packhouse 3 are replaced with an Aweta packing line. The new packing line is named N1.


CFG, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, Du Toit Fruit, along with other industry players, establish Link Supply Chain Management. The aim was to achieve better control in the value chain.


Packhouse 5 is constructed to accommodate the increase in bi-colour apple varieties. It is equipped with a Greefa sizer capable of separating apples according to size, colour and defects. The sizer can also identify internal defects.


The old Ventura packing line was replaced in 2021 with a new Greefa sizer featuring state-of-the-art optical technology. The packing line is uniquely designed as all defect sorting of fruits is done through this technology, in contrast to traditional manual sorting.

The new packing line is known as N2 because it is located next to the N1 packing line. The pathway between the two packing lines is called the R300.