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SAB invests in lime farming – to make Corona drinkers happy

SAB is upbeat about bagging 1.1-million lime fruit in its first harvest after injecting R19m into local production of the crop…..

A lime shortage in SA saw the group take steps to ensure security of supply by embarking on the Moletele lime initiative in Limpopo.

While limes are grown in SA, other citrus fruits are far more profitable and are favoured by farmers. Of the country’s more than 90,000ha of citrus orchards, less than 10% of the land is dedicated to limes.

The public-private partnership formed between SAB, the Moletele Community Property Association and Komati Fruit Group, alongside the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, has now seen about 34,000 trees in the 60ha Moletele farm produce the SAB-required limes, with the surplus being exported to other markets.

Speaking to Business Day, SAB executive Zoleka Lisa said the group aimed to ensure that the beer produced is local and inclusive, highlighting that 95% of SAB’s raw materials came from SA.

“Agriculture is the bedrock of our country and also of our industry,” Lisa said. “A lack of local supply of limes was affecting SAB’s Corona beer’s authentic drinking ritual. The solution was a novel opportunity to invest in lime farming and in boosting local production. Emerging farmers and their communities were significantly empowered.”

SAB has invested R19m into the initiative during the four-year partnership which has gone towards procuring machinery, equipment, upskilling and the technology necessary to ensure that the limes are available all year round.

Highlighting that the company’s value chain supports 250,000 livelihoods, Lisa said the lime initiative was taking SAB’s localisation a step further after the company started producing Corona in SA in recent years at its multiple local plants.

Going local

“Going local is a no-brainer, it creates jobs,” said Lisa. “We will be buying the limes from this initiative because we need them for our Corona and to put them into our retail value chain,” she said, emphasising the reliance of the beer industry on the agricultural sector, “so we will always invest in it”.

Agriculture minister Thoko Didiza said public-private partnerships and localisation are the foundations of building a sustainable sector.

She said the transformative collaborations, which the department began honing in over the past four years, would bolster the progress of the agricultural agro-processing master plan — a multi-stakeholder social compact which aims to promote competitiveness and transformation in agriculture and agro-processing sectors by increasing food security and accelerating the opening of markets and better access conditions.

“There is a potential that still is untapped in the agricultural economy of this country,” Didiza said, adding that the model of the lime initiative could be replicated across SA in other areas.

“This collaboration sets a positive precedent for future community-private partnerships in agriculture, showing a great potential to drive sustainable economic development.”

The project employs 12 people and seasonal workers from the community are hired during peak periods. All the proceeds from the sales of Moletele Corona Limes go back to the 1,615 families that make up the Moletele Community, SAB said.

Calling on SAB and other investors to continue investing in localisation, chair of the Moletele Community Property Association, Albert Thabane, said expansion and scale would aid in ensuring the sustainability of local jobs.

“Land is still available. If the demand is still high, we can increase the hectarage,” Thabane said.


Why the Corona-lime tradition?

As the most valuable beer brand in the world, Corona is a familiar name. Associated with beach time fun and backyard barbecues, the Mexican lager is often accompanied by its trusty sidekick, a fresh green lime wedge hanging off the top of the bottle.

There are several versions of the origin story for this classic pairing, and it’s anybody’s guess which one is actually true.

Some say that the metal caps used to seal bottles of Corona are notorious for leaving rust marks on the rim and that the lime acts as a rust-remover and sterilizer. A similar principle applies to the claim that the citrus works as a disinfectant, which makes sense considering that the drinking water in Mexico is known for its deleterious effects on health.

At odds with these claims is the fact that Corona has been brewed for over a century, and locals were never known to add lime before recent times.

Others suggest that Corona’s clear bottles leave the brew prone to a skunky flavour and aroma — as exposure to light causes the bitter alpha acids in beer to transform into the same chemical contained in a skunk’s spray — and that the fragrance of lime juice helps mask this odour.

It has also been said that the lime is meant to keep flies out of the beer, as citrus is a natural bug repellent.

Arguably the most likely scenario…

…. is the claim that a bartender started the trend in 1981 to increase the marketability of the Mexican lager.

While scant evidence exists to back up any of the claims, it is likely that a combination of factors led to the pairing’s prolonged popularity. The brand has noticeably embraced the act, as practically every advertisement includes citrus of some sort.

While nobody is quite sure when or why the tradition began, it’s now hard to imagine drinking a cold Corona without  lime.