Food SA shares tips how local agro-processors can grow globally

Food SA shares tips how local agro-processors can grow globally

With the right technology and backing, development body Food South Africa says that a number of young South Africans could have the potential to become international agro-processing centres. 

South Africa’s young entrepreneurs and agriculturalists have the vision, enthusiasm and potential to become agro-processors with international reach – given the right technologies, funding and support.

This is according to Food South Africa, the country’s agro-processing, development finance and export development organisation, which is set to participate in the upcoming food and drink technology Africa trade show.

Fanus Engelbrecht, chief marketing officer of Food South Africa, says the organisation represents 762 local agro-processors, most of them SMEs based in the Western Cape, and is now expanding its reach across the country. With many years’ experience in growing local SMEs into large businesses and exporters, Engelbrecht says South Africa’s agro-processing sector is a sector with immense potential for growth.

Hundreds of young people are being trained in local agricultural colleges every year; in addition to thousands of subsistence farmers and millions of would-be entrepreneurs who have the potential to build successful agro-processing businesses, he notes.

“But most of them are not getting the support they need to build sustainable businesses. Crucially, they need funding, business guidance and support, and they need to look to Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to make their businesses less labour intensive and more efficient,” Engelbrecht says. “Another key barrier to entry is red tape and bureaucracy. With these challenges, we are not yet seeing the kind of growth we’d like to see in this sector. But we are hopeful that the new administration and its efforts to root out corruption will result in confidence returning to South Africa as an investment destination, and the situation will improve over the next few years.”

Food South Africa, which helps members become export ready and get their products on shelves abroad, has had some noteworthy successes to date, he says. “Among the export-worthy innovations to emerge from our member base is Munch Bowls, a Cape Town company that is producing edible crisp wheat catering bowls as an alternative to wasteful food containers. The product won the top award at SIAL China Innovations Award in 2014. When founder and director Georgina de Kock came to us, she had huge interest from potential buyers abroad, but she did not have the capacity to meet the demand. She applied to us for expansion funding and is now exporting so successfully she can barely stay ahead of demand.”

Another member, Masterstock Cape Wild Food, sells biodynamic green plant powders, stocks, salt flakes and edible blossoms harvested in the Cape online to a growing market.

“South Africans have a natural need to be close to the soil, as well as a tendency to innovate,” says Engelbrecht. This presents opportunities for growth in agriculture and agro-processing, with resulting job creation and economic growth.

“However, too many subsistence farmers out there, lack land security – the title deeds that allow them to raise funding to grow their business from the land. We need more emphasis from agencies and the government to make funding available in the form of grants instead of loans. SMEs in the agro-processing space face challenges in entering the mainstream economy also include the lack of appropriate agro-processing technologies, reaching economies of scale and tough competition.”

Engelbrecht says automation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies present significant opportunities for the sector.

“We live in changing times and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us – we need to get on board this ship or we will be left behind. While we may see job losses as more efficient and productive machinery is deployed, this change creates an opportunity for us to find ways to be creative and find alternative employment for those at risk of losing their jobs,” he says.

“Finding new roles for redundant workers will be a challenge, but there is also great potential for SMEs in the sector to generate sustainable jobs, by using technology to increase income. Advanced automation systems, robotics and processes that can be controlled via machinery or software, can be made to work alongside and improve performance of existing laborers and teams. Available technologies will become simpler and cheaper, which will create opportunities for smaller operators to take their place in the agro-processing chain.”

Food South Africa will showcase some of its members at food & drink technology (fdt), the biennial trade fair presented by leading international exhibition organiser Messe München, at the Gallagher Convention Centre from 9 to 11 July 2019.

fdt Africa covers the entire food and beverage process chain – from raw materials and processing through to bottling, packaging and logistics. The co-located events will attract more than 6 000 visitors access to the latest technologies across the entire value chain, including solutions to key industry concerns such as quality assurance, packaging, environmental issues and waste management.

The Trade Fair

food & drink technology Africa (fdt Africa) is a biennial trade fair held in Johannesburg. The trade fair, with its accompanying knowledge-sharing programme, is the third successful offset of Messe München’s drinktec, the world’s leading trade fair in the beverage and liquid food industry.

The event will be co-located with IFAT – the premier water value chain technology exhibition and with analytica Lab Africa.


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