The Edcon group has shown a strong commitment to supporting the local cotton industry and its demise would be a setback to work done in recent years to rebuild the industry.
Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton South Africa, says Edcon’s use of local cotton had been increasing year over year since they became part of the South African Sustainable Cotton Cluster (SASCC), a programme that seeks to increase capacity and competitiveness in South Africa’s textile and apparel industries.
“It’s a shame that the group is experiencing a crisis,” says Bruwer. “They have existed for almost 100 years and it would be sad to see such an established business close.
“The Edcon group was very committed to the local cotton industry in terms of value adding. What we saw was that their use of local cotton had increased with every year. They were adamant in wanting to manufacture products using local raw materials at competitive prices,” Bruwer explains.
The battling retailer collapsed after operations came to a halt as a direct result of the nationwide lockdown. The group, which owns Edgars and Jet among others, announced in March that it was struggling to stay afloat and that it is currently in business rescue. Up to 22 000 jobs are at stake if the rescue plan does not work. Employees have already taken pay cuts.
Bruwer says he believes Edcon’s joining of the SCC played a significant role in establishing trust in the cotton industry.
“We hope that there will be new owners and that they will continue with the support initiatives and strategies of Edcon,” he says. “It would be a pity if the Edcon group could no longer be part of the cluster, but this is an opportunity to get other groups and textile companies also on board.”
Furthermore, he explains that the groundwork for the SCC has been done and that they are opening an invitation to everyone in the industry.
“Currently we are in the process of extending the cluster with a further five-year term with support from government. We are in the process of getting the plans approved and obtaining funding. However, with covid-19 we are not sure if funding will be available, but we hope so,” Bruwer tells Food For Mzansi.
Bruwer says the outlook for the SA cotton industry is looking very positive. The industry is producing more than what is being used locally.
“The industry will export more than what it will import (this year), and this will make us a net exporter. This is good for the economy and the farmers. The returns that I have seen already looks very good and I am confident that we will reach the 150 000-bale mark,” he says.
Cotton is now produced in six provinces namely Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and the Free State. Limpopo remains the largest producer, however, areas in the North West have started showing a lot of potential to be an equal competitor.