Winning students from the Top of the Class (TOC) programme, a Black Empowerment initiative led by the South African Fresh Produce Exporters Forum, enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to Fruit Logistica to meet and network with suppliers and importers.

TOC Students learn from a set of manuals covering the entire supply chain written by FPEF experts.The programme began with one class in 2004, and has grown to seven classes in 2006, reaching as far as Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

For Rico Koen, pictured far right, it was his first time overseas. He said: “At last I’m here seeing the exporters, mingling and networking. In production, you’re on the farm itself, but at a point it stops for you as a grower, because you only see the fruit out of your packhouse and then on to a truck, and then you don’t know what’s happening. But on this course we could look further, follow the fruit every step of the way.

“This is a great experience for us; just look back at where we’ve come from. Before 1994 we did not have these opportunities and now suddenly the opportunities are there for those that want to seize them. I always say in life, you cannot blame somebody else. All your successes and losses are your own responsibility.”