When Hannes Joubert purchased a 40-hectare farm named Habata near Kirkwood in the Sundays River Valley in 1978, he’s had little idea that the operation would mushroom to become one of South Africa’s leading exporters of citrus.
His initial plan was to supply lucerne to farmers in the district and his wife Marie looked after the fledgling business while he worked as a technical officer for the Sundays River Citrus Company (SRCC).
He left SRCC in 1996 to venture into full-time farming and soon Habata was transformed into a thriving operation that focused on citrus for the international market during the winter months and cucurbits for local consumers in summer.
To accommodate the growing demand for his produce, Hannes acquired neighbouring farms, as well as several in the Addo area, and consolidated them under the Habata brand.
The staff grew exponentially and in 2003 the Habata Farming closed corporation was established, which evolved into Habata (Pty) Ltd in 2015.
Hannes, a descendent of French Huguenot Pierre Joubert who settled in the Western Cape in 1869, has shown entrepreneurial spirit from a young age.
While growing up in Steytlerville, he filled bags with the bones of dead animals during a severe drought and sold these to the townsfolk for bone meal. With the profits, he bought a brand-new three-speed Raleigh bicycle.
He is now applying his special brand of forward thinking to the Habata story, of which the 2015 acquisition of Le Grand Chasseur Wine Estate near Robertson in the Western Cape is the latest chapter.
Perhaps fittingly, Habata is named after a desert oasis in Morocco where the previous owner found himself stranded during World War II.