MEC for Economic Development and Tourism opens top future farming facilities at Dube TradePort

13 August 2013

A new agricultural facility at Dube TradePort, outside Durban, is poised to produce more than 3 million plantlets a year, expanding to 5 million in future, and is set for the export of young plants across the world and the supply of material for local farmers, whilst the introduction of a second resource, a high-care fresh produce value adding distribution centre, becomes the first of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal.

Speaking at the official opening of the two new centres of excellence within Dube TradePort's future farming platform, Dube AgriZone, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu, MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, said: "Agriculture has always been a key component of KwaZulu-Natal's economic mix and with the growing need to ensure continued food security in South Africa, this is a sector which must be regarded as being of extreme importance going forward."

Opening the vital new Dube AgriZone components, Farmwise Packhouse and Distribution Centre, a fresh produce value adding distribution facility, and Dube AgriLab, an ultra-modern plant tissue culture laboratory, Mr Mabuyakhulu said KwaZulu-Natal's agricultural sector should embrace advanced farming methods in order to ensure competitiveness and to meet and exceed future produce demands.

Dube AgriZone provides the largest climate-controlled growing area under glass in Africa and has been especially developed to promote agricultural products with a short shelf-life and which may require being flown immediately to a range of market destinations. The two new facilities complete the first phase of Dube AgriZone's development, creating South Africa's most technologically advanced farming area.

Mr Mabuyakhulu said: "In recognising the need to expand the agricultural sector in KwaZulu-Natal, the Provincial Government is committed to the sector's stimulation through the provision of truly world-class infrastructure. Evidence of our early delivery on that commitment is to be seen here in the make-up of Dube TradePort's agricultural platform. Dube AgriZone is the future of farming."

The zone also demonstrates public-private partnership at work.

"Such alliances are, we believe, an economic imperative today. We are proud that our infrastructural development here has opened the door to public and private co-operation and co-ordination which ensures direct and indirect involvement in the expansion and maturity of Dube TradePort.

With Dube TradePort Corporation having developed the 4 200 square metre centre, designed for the rigorous demands of modern produce supply chains, private sector company, Farmwise Marketing (Pty) Ltd., delivers the vital expertise in utilising a series of ripening rooms to ripen pre-harvested produce, so ensuring rapid and timely responses to the demands of the market. The company is responsible for the ripening, processing, packaging and distribution of fresh produce from both Dube AgriZone and farmers in the surrounding areas.
Commenting, Dube TradePort Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Ms Saxen van Coller, said: "The intensity of business competition and the ever more discerning requirements of consumers around the world demands an ability to speedily deliver product to market and to meet exacting specifications."

That is what Farmwise brings to Dube AgriZone and Ms van Coller added: "We, together with Farmwise, enjoy the competitive advantage of being in the position to not only meet, but to exceed market expectations, given Dube AgriZone's close proximity to Dube Cargo Terminal, located adjacent to King Shaka International Airport."

The Farmwise Packhouse and Distribution Centre, which employs the highest standards of hygiene and which has created some 100 new employment opportunities, has already secured a number of local markets.

The 4 200 square metre Farmwise Packhouse and Distribution Centre is a fresh produce value adding distribution facility and the first of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal. Its function is to stage, process, package and distribute fresh produce grown both within Dube AgriZone and on behalf of farmers in the agricultural environs surrounding Dube TradePort.

Commenting on the alliance with Farmwise, Dr Bridgette Gasa, Dube TradePort Corporation's Chairperson, said: “I am pleased to be able to say we have a well-established business partner; a business partner who has worked diligently over time to develop an enviable track-record. We are, therefore, proud to have such an agricultural business enterprise associated with Dube TradePort and our future farming platform.”

“Farmwise has been most fortunate to secure such a world-class facility, utilising prime real estate within Dube AgriZone. This certainly gives us a competitive advantage and allows us to better serve our clients across the country. The variable cold storage facility available here has enabled us to become a staging facility for a number of our suppliers across the country. The facility is also certified under Global Gap and HACCP and that, along with our close proximity to King Shaka International Airport, has enabled our operations to be of further benefit to our clients, who may now take advantage of the vast opportunities for export from our packhouse, value adding and distribution centre," added Mr Raymond de Costa, Managing Director of Farmwise.

Kobus du Toit, CEO Farmwise said, “…thanks to the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal for supporting Dube TradePort, we have a fantastic building here, I doubt that there is another building like this where we pack fresh produce for our customers, we have a facility in Johannesburg, but I do not think that our facility at Dube AgriZone is just state-of-the-art, it’s the best.”

Frikkie van Niekerk, Produce Technologist: Woolworths added, “It's such a privilege for Woolworths to be associated with such a world class facility, through the great supply base that we have got; we currently have three suppliers (that are based within the Dube AgriZone) Farmwise, Qutom farms and Carmel Nurseries… I can truly vouch that the crops that come out here are the cream of the crop in this country.”

Commenting on the zone's plant tissue culture facility, Mr Mabuyakhulu said: "In Dube AgriLab, we have a highly sophisticated laboratory and one with the capacity to produce more than 3 million plantlets every year and, given its advantageous location adjacent to the airport, is well-placed for the export of young plants across the world. This resource is responsible for facilitating the horticultural and agricultural plant propagation needs of Dube AgriZone and has the potential to extend its services to encompass national and international markets as well."

Dube AgriLab already has an Intellectual Property Agreement with the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) and is working in close co-operation with the SASRI to ensure good crops and high yields for the benefit of KwaZulu-Natal cane farmers. It is also collaborating with role-players in the banana industry.

Mr Mabuyakhulu said: "It is our aim to expand such collaborations, giving consideration to how best Dube AgriLab might work with other market sectors into the future. It has the ability to produce plant tissue material locally, instead of having to import plant stock. This facility has the ability to develop and refine protocols in-house and the capacity to produce most plant-types."

The laboratory is willing to consider requests from local professional growers and farmers, which would enable Dube AgriLab to maximise its capacity, potentially expanding to produce up to 5 million plantlets per annum.

Mr Mabuyakhulu envisaged that Dube AgriLab would be "perfectly positioned" to undertake complex research and development work within the next five years and said he believed that Dube AgriZone, with its additional new facilities, provided a model agricultural environment and supply chain system. "This will go a long way towards positioning KwaZulu-Natal at the very forefront of cutting-edge, future farming methodologies and techniques in South Africa," he added.

Dr Gasa concluded by directing a call to action to the business community and consumers: “There can be no question that Dube AgriZone is set to make a significantly positive impact on both local and international markets. We are intent on bringing future farming to producers and consumers today, with one goal in mind... to move your business forward.