The Western Cape department of agriculture is tightening its ties with Belgian agro-processing and tech companies as part of its efforts to create jobs in rural communities.
The province recently welcomed the news that East Flemish biscuit company Lotus will be launching its third factory in South Africa. The latest, currently being built in Wolseley near the deciduous fruit-producing town of Ceres, promises to make a positive contribution to the province’s agri-processing subsector.
The factory, a R170-million investment, is earmarked to be up and running by August 2023. It will produce healthy snacks such as fruit rolls that will be sold under the brand name Bear.
According to the province’s agriculture minister, Dr Ivan Meyer, the investment by Lotus SA will have a positive impact on the economy and jobs in Wolseley and the greater Witzenberg region.
“Investments such as these promise more jobs and prosperity to rural communities,” Meyer says, putting particular emphasis on the agro-processing subsector.
He places great value on the agricultural value chain and says the agro-processing subsector in the Western Cape employs approximately 120 000 people.
‘We have found a new partner‘
Lotus is best known for its product called speculoos, a traditional biscuit which is marketed abroad as Biscoff. The first factory was opened in South Africa in 2019, with a second following in 2021.
The managing director of Lotus Manufacturing South Africa, Donald Matheson, has dubbed the story of Lotus SA as “one of meteoric success”.
“We opened our first plant in 2019, the second in 2021, and by August 2023, we will open the third plant. During this period, production has jumped from 1 800 tonnes of product in 2019 to approximately 3 100 in 2022. At the same time, jobs have increased from 293 to 527.”
The Flemish prime minister, Jan Jambon, said at the official start of the factory construction in Wolseley that employment was a great value-add to their investment and that he was charmed by what he saw in the Western Cape.
“The Western Cape government wants to work with us in research and development, digitisation and green energy… I think we have found a new partner,” he said.
Jambon was in South Africa for a week-long visit during which he met with politicians and businesspeople. Various Flemish companies are already active in South Africa.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.