by Lauren Cohen

Job creation

Encouraging signs for Western Cape agri-business sector, says Wesgro

80 new jobs have been created in the Western Cape's dried fruit industry
dried fruit.jpg

In the first week of the new financial year, Montague Dried Fruits finalised their expansion of their factory in the Cape Winelands District Municipality.

Wesgro, the Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade promotion Agency of the Western Cape, assisted the company with access to incentives and customised intelligence from their IQ Unit.

The successful deal is just one of many which have flourished under the auspices of Wesgro’s Agribusiness Unit, established four years ago after the Provincial Department of Agriculture stipulated that a dedicated division was required to grow the sector.

“At the current time we have built up a solid investment pipeline of between R300-million and R400-million,” said Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten.

The books show that the unit exceeded its 2012/2013 Financial year target by 3.5 times, with investment projects totalling R172.2-million signed against an investment target of R51.5-million.

Wesgro assisted Nouvelle Mushrooms to finalise a deal, which will see them set up a processing plant and spawning facility in CaledonThe third deal was Le Bon Bon Confectionary’s factory expansion in Cape Town, where Wesgro facilitated the introduction to funders.

“With these deals, 125 new jobs were created,” Flaatten said, whose aim is to grow the province into an agri-processing hub. “There is interest from the Netherlands, Germany and the US in sectors ranging from agri-technology and speciality foods.”

Also on the cards, is a R15-million deal for the expansion of a processing facility in Cape Town, which Flaatten is confident will be completed before the end of April.

Research by Wesgro’s IQ unit has revealed opportune subsectors of agri-business in the Western Cape include rooibos and honeybush tea processing, olive oil and olives and the processing of essential oils from lavender, rose geranium and citrus.

“This is based on the fact that demand currently outstrips supply,” Flaatten said. “Another area which has excellent growth potential is that of aquaculture, specifically marine fin fish and trout.”

Investor interest in the province has increased since 2010, with many enquiries coming from BRICS countries.  “Wesgro has conducted investment missions into Brazil, China and India, the latter which has resulted in a number of potential projects."

Flaatten said the Western Cape’s proximity to various resources and an environment conducive to business, thanks to access to ports, railroad, airports, coupled with good internet connectivity and high levels of quality off lower cost bases, were reasons the province scored highly when benchmarked against international competitors.

“There is ready access to high growth consumer markets, both in Africa and South Africa, meaning that international companies often choose to be headquartered here to take advantage of our favourable business and political environment.”

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