- Chicory (Cichorium intybus), a member of the sunflower family, produces a large tapered root which has been used for many years for its beneficial effect on the human digestive system (read about the health benefits of chicory on www.chicory.co.za). It grows for seven or eight months before being harvested and defoliated.
- Roots of chicory are dried, ground and used as a coffee substitute or supplement. Chicory is also widely used in beverages as a blend with coffee and as an ingredient in pet food and breakfast cereals. Chicory endives can also be used in salads.
- Chicory was first introduced into South Africa for commercial use in 1895 in the Alexandria area in the Eastern Cape. The bulk of South Africa’s chicory is still grown here. It is also grown in the Southwell and Bathurst areas and, under irrigation, in the Gamtoos and Sundays river valleys. The chicory industry is a major employer.
- South Africa produces 18 000 to 20 000 tons of chicory a year. Chicory SA in Alexandria buys harvested chicory root from farmers, dries, roasts and sells it to companies such as Nestlé International in KwaZulu-Natal and National Brands in Johannesburg for the production of blended coffee and chicory beverages.
Local business environment
- Chicory is grown under contract to Chicory SA.
- There is no restriction on chicory being imported. Particularly when the rand is strong, imports are a threat to the industry.
- Despite the numbers of producers decreasing over the past years, improved technology and management kept the volume of chicory produced in South Africa at the same level. Increasing imports though is forcing the volume down.
- Chicory is traditionally a rainfed crop with the best yields coming from along the coast. After the changing weather patterns of the past years, chicory is grown under irrigation now.
- The production of chicory is labour-intensive (manual weed control and harvesting), and labour costs account for a large part of the input costs.
National strategy and government contact
The development in the chicory industry fits into what is aimed for in the National Development Plan and the target of one million jobs for the agriculture and the agro-processing sector. It featured in the Industrial Action Policy Plans (IPAPs) of the then Department of Trade & Industry (the dti). The 2017/18-2019/20 IPAP document reported on what was seen as a long-term commitment between role players like Nestlé and the dti to curb imports and promote local procurement in South Africa.
- Chicory Producers’ Association (CPA) Tel: 046 653 0048
This commodity association is affiliated to Agri Eastern Cape, www.agriec.co.za.
- Chicory SA Limited www.chicory.co.za
Chicory SA Limited is based in the Eastern Cape, its products are marketed to manufacturers and consumers in South Africa and internationally. Products sold by Chicory SA include dried chicory, roasted chicory and liquid chicory extract as well as its own pure, caffeine-free chicory for the local market. Chicory SA also provides vital ingredients to manufacturers of a variety of top selling brand name products. Nestle, National Brands, Spar, OK Foods, Pick n Pay, Shoprite Checkers and Dis-Chem all stock chicory products.
Websites and publications
The Directorate Agro-processing Support at DALRRD put out “Profile of Chicory Plant” which includes notes on the processing and trade of chicory. Find the Production guideline for chicory on the Directorate Plant Production’s pages on the same website, www.dalrrd.gov.za.
Two publications are available from the ARC:
- “Chicory”, a leaflet which can be ordered from the ARC in Roodeplaat. Contact 012 841 9611.
- Agro-processing of Industrial Crops (chicory, coffee, sugar cane, tea) is available from the ARC in Silverton. Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] arc.agric.za.
Notes on chicory can be found at www.chicory.co.za, the website of Chicory SA.
- Sihlobo W. 2018, June 8. “A Brief History of South African Chicory Production”. Available at https://wandilesihlobo.com/2018/06/08/a-brief-history-of-south-african-chicory-production/
- Phillips, L. 2017, September 8. “Maximising chicory yields with optimal planting densities”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at https://journals.co.za/content/journal/10520/EJC-9535ea2de
- Reporter. 2015, August 24. “All about chicory”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/farm-basics/how-to-crop/all-about-chicory/
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