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KwaZulu-Natal: A prime agri-business investment destination.

2023-07-17 09:45:10

Local entrepreneurs had the opportunity to showcase and sell their products to more than 1500 delegates at the 8th Africa Agribusiness and Science Week (AASW8), held at the Durban ICC on 5-8 June 2023.

These small to medium enterprises who make products from crops, are among those receiving ongoing support to access global markets from Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN). Through the Export Development and Promotion Unit, marketing opportunities are created for local businesses. At AASW8, nine businesses were housed at the TIKZN exhibition stand, and reported to have made a collective R205 400 in sales. These include various nut butters, natural hair and skins products, tea, as well as cannabis and moringa products. Aside from direct sales, they able to market to, and network with Africa’s agriculture, agri-business and agri-science experts in attendance.

AASW8 takes place every three years and this year focused on linking science, innovation and agri-business for resilient food systems in Africa. There was a business matchmaking hub specifically for researchers, businesses and investors to engage and explore areas of collaboration. Speaking to agribusiness leaders at the hub, Sihle Ngcamu, Executive Manager: Investment Promotion, presented on TIKZN’s service offering. He gave an overview of the agricultural sector in KwaZulu-Natal, for which meat and poultry account for 31%, bakery  products 16% and fruits and vegetables 11%. He highlighted the various services, including research led by TIKZN’s Knowledge Management Unit, to produce sector reports, fact sheets and export research and contribute to the conceptualisation and packaging of investment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

Part of TIKZN’s service offering is site identification. “We have a database of sites that are serviced and already approved for specific ventures,” said Ngcamu. Further, TIKZN works closely with the likes of Dube TradePort, which is home to the Dube AgriZone, Africa’s first integrated  perishables supply chain. It specialises in the propagation, cultivation and processing of high-value agricultural and horticultural crops. It offers the most technologically-advanced future farming platform on the continent and has in place 16 hectares  of greenhouses – the largest climate-controlled glass-covered growing area in Africa – coupled with dedicated post-harvest pack houses, a central distribution centre, nursery and Dube AgriLab, a cutting-edge plant tissue culture laboratory facility.

“The agro-processing sector is still controlled to a great extent by large and well-established companies which historically have a large market share, giving them monopoly in production and processing; thus the importance of building local production and processing by making funds accessible, transforming the sector and creating an enabling environment to drive this,” said Ngcamu.

Emerging agri-entrepreneurs are often hindered by strict requirements relating to volumes, quality, and food safety systems demanded by formal markets. “Due to the lack of industry knowledge and experience, some of our smallholder farmers are unable to align themselves to market- orientated cooperatives to benefit from economies of scale. We support them to understand issues of quality and health and safety required by the market, and in some instances, we provide technical assistance for such things as a business plan development, environmental impact assessments, feasibility studies and so on,” added Ngcamu.

Whether on a small scale or a large scale, KZN is a prime agri-business investment destination with developed and developing infrastructure, opportunities for exports due to proximity to the logistical network by freight, rail, road and sea to Gauteng, and the rest of the country as well as being South Africa’s gateway into the rest of Africa and the world.

This bodes well for export as well, as local producers have ease access however, in order to gain access to these markets and secure export agreements, they need to be exposed to the global market. Export promotion does this by facilitating local business’ participation at local and international events. This year, TIKZN- in partnership with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and Transnet, has already sponsored local traders to exhibit at the Rwanda International Trade Fair, Mozambique's biggest trade fair FACIM, Southern African International Trade Exhibition (SAITEX) in Johannesburg and Decorex in Cape Town among others.  

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