26-08-2013 -“Access to the massive Chinese consumer market offers fantastic opportunities for Eastern Cape agroprocessing ventures as it could serve as a channel for...
-“Access to the massive Chinese consumer market offers fantastic opportunities for Eastern Cape agroprocessing ventures as it could serve as a channel for its products to larger markets within China and the rest of the world,” Carara Agroprocessing managing director Mike Duxbury says.

One of the largest processors of pickled cherry peppers in South Africa, Grahamstown-based Carara was last month placed on a 30-month exhibition at the Ningbo trade fair in China by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). On Monday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan also urged the province to kick the habit of waiting for things to come to it stating that international capital is looking to invest in agroprocessing projects in the region.

Between January and July 2012, a total of $500 million worth of imported agro-processed products went through the Harbour of Ningbo alone. The product ranges included wine, milk, fruit and seafood. Ningbo citizens alone, consumed 5 415 tons of imported foods during this period. ECDC’s long-term view is to attract investment from China and boost employment creation in the province by acquiring long-term contracts and new investment,

“Being placed on a 30 month exhibition in Ningbo, China opens immense opportunities for our business. We produce pickled products such as cherry peppers and patty pans for the export market destined for the Europe market such as Germany, United Kingdom and smaller amounts to Australia. Opportunities offered by the Chinese market are significant and we intend to grow in the region.

“At peak production, Carara is the single largest employer in Grahamstown with a full staff complement approaching 1000. Taken together, Carara and its subsidiary facilities have created approximately 2 000 and 2 500 on-farm seasonal jobs. We are a highly labour-intensive business and with our latest expansion we will provide approximately 2 500 seasonal factory jobs and up to 3 000 seasonal on farm jobs in the 2013 season,” Duxbury says.

Duxbury explains that Carara has been with ECDC for an extended period with the financier mainly playing an advisory role in so far as access to land is concerned. Carara was thus excited when the corporation offered it the opportunity to exhibit in China.

The first South African company to exhibit at the international Ningbo exhibition, ECDC hopes to open opportunities for Eastern Cape companies to access the large Chinese consumer market. The other companies are East London-based Oceanwise (cob fish), and Berrynice (bluerries). Two Port Elizabeth companies Momentos of Africa (mohair products) and Mendabath (bath resurfacing kit) as well Makana Meadery (honey beer) from Grahamstown.

“Located northeast of the Zhejiang province of China, Ningbo has the largest seaport in China and the second largest in the world. It forms a major part of China’s import and export market. The United States Food Industry Association predicts that Chinese imported and exported food sales will grow at a speed of 15% year on year. To 2018, China will become the world’s largest consumer of imported and exported food. The Chinese domestic market size of imported food will reach up to 480 billion RMB.

“Ningbo therefore presents immense opportunities for the Eastern Cape as it could serve as a channel for Eastern Cape agroprocessing products to larger markets within China and the rest of the world,” ECDC market access unit’s Zodwa Kepeyi explains.

Formed in 2004, Carara is supplied with high quality cherry peppers, japelenos and golden patty pans by a reliable network of farmers from Grahamstown. The high demand for its products has made expansion necessary resulting in the establishment of additional agroprocessing facilities across southern and central Africa.

The investment by the corporation is aimed at increasing the value of trade and number of exporters from the province by facilitating access for local entrepreneurs to new markets. ECDC is seeing growth in the area considering that the value of exports facilitated by the financier has grown from R900 million in 2010/11 to R1,7 billion in the past financial year. This figure is expected to grow in 2012/13.

“ECDC’s responsibility to increase the value of trade means it has to explore new opportunities made possible by various trade policies. Subsequently, the corporation identified the City of Ningbo as a suitable location after several trade missions it executed in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to Chinese cities such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Xaimen,” says Kepeyi.

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