Creating citrus capacity

Two-fold cold storage expansion at the Coega SEZ

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One of the very first exports-orientated investors to locate their facility at the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) was the Port Elizabeth (PE) Cold Storage plant. Now, to the benefit of the citrus and pome fruits industry, the company is once again expanding its facility at Coega.

The investment of R10 million is the second expansion within a space of two years, following the R100 million investment by the company in 2017.

Then, FPT Group (previously known as Fresh Produce Terminals) decided to convert its citrus storage facilities at the original Port Elizabeth harbour to a manganese terminal because the mineral means year-round business, compared to business only during the citrus season lasting five months.

This would have resulted in a shortage of pre-cooling facilities for Eastern Cape fresh produce, particularly citrus, leaving the harbour for export markets. PE Cold Storage stepped in and accelerated their cold storage warehouse expansion plans at Coega (originally to have been ready in 2020/21) in order to have new cold storage ready at the start of the 2017 citrus season.

Expanded cold storage capacity was also necessitated by a growth projection of 25% in citrus volumes over the coming years, due to increased plantings coming into production. The facility will additionally accommodate the pomefruit industry during summer, with apples and pears from the Langkloof pre-cooled for export starting in February.

Capacity is now such that when the citrus and pomefruit seasons overlap, both operations can run concurrently.

Now there is going to even more capacity.

“We doubled our capacity of 7,500 pallets to around 15,000 pallets storage. The expansion complemented our state of the art modern storage facility and accommodated greater volumes for the increasing citrus production in the Eastern Cape,” says George Efstratiou, PE Cold Storages’ co-director.

The current project will see the company play a critical role in the refrigeration and short-term storage of citrus products before distribution to markets around the world. The new building will comprise of a new workshop, facilitate the servicing of forklifts and vehicles of the company.

“We are very excited with the project and the vast opportunities it brings for the company. Currently we have over 100 people employed at the PE Cold Storage facilities. As a result of the expansion we have managed to create an additional five permanent jobs and a further 25 construction jobs,” adds George.

Highlighting the importance of locating in an enabling environment, George said, “The Coega SEZ has been the ideal investment destination for our company. I would definitely encourage more investors to come and invest at Coega due to the clean and secure environment as well as the good services and facilities provided and being situated near the Port of Ngqura.”

These sentiments supports the recent independent study conducted on the impact of the Coega in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and Eastern Cape. For example, over 80% of the companies that have invested in the Coega SEZ have seen an increase in their profits since starting operations in the zone, these include Coega Dairy and PE Cold Storage, among others with the benefits felt throughout the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and the rest of the province, according to an independent research conducted by Muffin Consulting.

In addition, 85% of investors have increased their workforce, sixty two percent (62%) have expanded their factories, more than 90% described the Coega SEZ and its Logistics Park inUitenhage as the ideal location for small and big industries, private sector investment accounts for approximately 70% of the total investment value at Coega, over 78% of suppliers to investors are local.

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