Agro­pro­cess­ing fruit hub

Along with plans to han­dle the en­tire value chain will come sup­port for black in­dus­tri­al­ists

CityPress - - Business - SIZWE SAMA YENDE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Mpumalanga is about to build its first agro­pro­cess­ing fruit hub worth about R10 bil­lion, which prom­ises to be a gamechanger for the prov­ince.

Ac­cord­ing to Xola Sit­hole, CEO of the Mpumalanga Eco­nomic Growth Agency (Mega), this project is one of many that the prov­ince will im­ple­ment to grow the econ­omy and cre­ate much-needed jobs.

Other en­vis­aged multi­bil­lion-rand projects which Mega in­tends im­ple­ment­ing in­volve re­new­able en­ergy, par­tic­u­larly biomass – fuel that is de­vel­oped from or­ganic ma­te­ri­als – as the prov­ince is home to 40% of the coun­try’s forestry in­dus­try and min­ing.

The agency hosted the prov­ince’s first in­vest­ment con­fer­ence this week to sell Mpumalanga’s eco­nomic po­ten­tial to in­vestors.

“Mpumalanga is sit­ting on gold. We have met po­ten­tial in­vestors and showed them the op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in the prov­ince,” said Sit­hole.

The agro­pro­cess­ing project – the first of its kind in the prov­ince – is set to cre­ate 15 000 jobs in the ru­ral Nko­mazi Special Eco­nomic Zone.

Jo­han van Ton­der, the CEO of Agustin Eq­uity Management – which has part­nered with Mega – said the project would deal with the whole value chain of fruit farm­ing. Mpumalanga’s cli­mate is suit­able for cit­rus and sub­trop­i­cal fruit pro­duc­tion.

The hub will grow fruit that will be sup­plied to a fac­tory to pro­duce con­cen­trate juice, fruit sal­ads and feed­stock for an­i­mals.

“We will con­trol the whole value chain, in­clud­ing lo­gis­tics,” said Van Ton­der.

“This project will drive the pro­mo­tion of black in­dus­tri­al­ists, the in­cu­ba­tion of small busi­ness and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for women and youth.”

Sit­hole said the con­struc­tion of the prov­ince’s Fresh Pro­duce Market was crit­i­cal for the suc­cess of the agro­pro­cess­ing fruit hub.

“The fruit pro­duced here has to be taken some­where else to be pro­cessed, and that has to change,” he said.

“It is clear to us that this project is vi­able. Mpumalanga has the ad­van­tage of being close to the har­bour in Mozam­bique for the export of our prod­ucts. We want to en­sure that housewives in Am­s­ter­dam and Lon­don who want fresh fruit, which is not there, get it sliced and pack­aged.”

Sit­hole said the prov­ince would also be go­ing all out to im­ple­ment a biomass project.

“So­lar and wind en­ergy projects are not fea­si­ble for this prov­ince, but we have 40% of forestry re­sources here.”

This project will be un­der­taken with Eskom, which wants to re­duce its car­bon emis­sions. These con­trib­ute 50% of the coun­try’s green­house gases.

Eskom has an­nounced that the first biomass project will be in Sa­bie.

The power util­ity will de­velop the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion’s (IDC’s) Ze­bra Pel­lets plant, lo­cated in Sa­bie, into a tor­refied pel­let plant.

Wood pro­duced by the SA Forestry Com­pany Lim­ited will be tor­refied – mean­ing that it will be heated with­out oxy­gen, break­ing its fi­brous struc­ture and re­mov­ing mois­ture and some volatiles to give it coal-like prop­er­ties.

Tor­refied wood is a re­new­able, car­bon-neu­tral en­ergy source.

Sit­hole said Mega was also look­ing at op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­vest in min­ing.

To this end, it has part­nered with the IDC to in­vest R150 mil­lion in the ex­pan­sion of the 11 000hectare Nko­mati An­thracite Mine, sit­u­ated near Malalane.

Mega is a 40% share­holder in the mine, while Sen­tula Min­ing holds 60%.

Sit­hole said Mega and Sen­tula would di­lute their share­hold­ing so that 60% would be trans­ferred to the com­mu­nity.

“If we want to change the eco­nomic growth tra­jec­tory, we need to be in­volved in min­ing, which con­trib­utes 15% to GDP.”

Sit­hole said the paras­tatal was also look­ing at in­vest­ing in Lily Gold Mine in Louisville, near Bar­ber­ton.

The mine closed op­er­a­tions last year af­ter a col­lapse at the en­trance of its shaft, and was eventually put un­der busi­ness res­cue. It is sched­uled to re­sume op­er­a­tions af­ter its pro­pri­etor, Van­tage Gold­fields, and Cana­dian com­pany Galane Gold de­cided to merge.

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