Tiger Brands’ fruit canning factory in the Western Cape, Langeberg & Ashton Foods, will remain open for at least one more season and both Agri SA and the Canning Fruit Producers’ Association, whose members supply to the factory, have welcomed the news.
“There’s hope again,” Jacques Jordaan, CEO of the association tells Food For Mzansi. “Farmers are grateful to have a market for their fruit for another season, and that the workers still have employment.”
In a statement released today (Tuesday, 12 July 2022), Tiger Brands says its keeping the factory open is thanks to an agreement with organised labour, employees and members of the Canning Fruit Producers’ Association as well as “a significant number of parties” who are possibly interested in buying the factory.
“The conclusion of any transaction would not have taken place in time for any successful buyer to put the required preparations in place to process the upcoming 2022-2023 season’s crop,” Tiger Brands says in its statement, following an outcry about its possible closure of the factory.
The company says it has urgently engaged its key partners since then, and has now secured enough time to continue discussions with possible buyers with enough operating capital “for the continuation of a sustainable deciduous fruit processing operation beyond the 2022-2023 season”.
Tiger Brands also praised stakeholders for their “flexibility, open-mindedness and good faith” in reaching the agreement.
“While the processing and marketing of deciduous fruit remain subject to the vagaries of weather, exchange rates and global pricing dynamics, the compact meaningfully contributes to mitigating the risk of significant operating losses in the forthcoming season,” says Noel Doyle, Tiger Brands CEO.
Jordaan says Tiger Brands’ decision came just in time to save the season. “What people don’t realise is that this week was the last week that you could order tin plate (to produce tin cans). Next week would have been too late.
“Iit is thanks to the collaboration of all the stakeholders involved that years of hard work will not go to waste.”
Agri SA welcomes the news
In a separate statement, also released today, Agri SA welcomes the announcement. “The decision is a vital reprieve for the sector and for the communities that rely on the facility for their livelihoods.
“In addition to the 4 550 workers at the factory, this decision will secure the livelihoods of the farmers, more than 2 000 permanent workers, and countless seasonal workers that also depend on the facility. But the threat is not over; this is a temporary reprieve, not a permanent solution as of yet.”
The organisation says it remains essential that the national and provincial governments support the producers and workers to find an effective permanent solution as R200 to R300 million is a significant investment and the consortium seeking to save the factory will require support to secure this funding.
Agri SA reiterated that the factory is the biggest in the country and its products occupy a niche position in the world market, bringing in hundreds of millions of rand in foreign currency.
“It sustains the Ashton community and if it were to close, approximately 300 farmers would have no alternative market for their produce. The factory is also the biggest single source of income for the Langeberg Municipality. Saving the factory is therefore as important for the success of the Agriculture and Agro-Processing Master Plan as it is for the health of the Ashton and Western Cape economies.”
Both Tiger Brands and Agri SA has vowed to continue working with other stakeholders to find a favourable outcome, and Jordaan welcomes the continued negotiations.
“It can’t be that we lose this factory.”
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