AGRICULTURE GROWS ON SOUTH COAST
With its incredible subtropical climate, nutrient-rich soil, steady rainfall pattern and high duration of sunshine, the KZN South Coast is ideally suited to most forms of agricultural investment. Already an established region for produce farming and global exports, there is still unlimited opportunity for agricultural investment within the fertile KZN South Coast according to Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise (SCTIE).
“South Africa is a well-known source of some of the world’s top exported products, and while the agricultural sector on the KZN South Coast is thriving, there is so much more opportunity awaiting those looking to invest. The launch of SCTIE earlier this year has enabled us to facilitate the many investment opportunities in the KZN South Coast, by highlighting the region’s potential and paving the way for those looking to do business in the area,” she says.
FARMING TAKES ROOT
Sugar remains one of the area’s leading exports, with the South African sugar industry a world leader in high-quality sugar. There are currently more than 20 000 registered sugarcane growers in KZN and Mpumalanga, with goods exported across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The South African sugar industry currently generates an annual estimated average income of R14 billion, with the KZN South Coast a key contributor.
However, the last few years have seen a significant shift from sugar cane to macadamia nut farming which offers highly attractive investment opportunities. According to A Farmer’s Weekly June article The rise of macadamia production in KZN, there is an ‘apparently insatiable demand’ resulting in ‘prices increasing significantly with crops providing good returns for farmers on the KZN South Coast.
“There remains, however, tremendous still un-tapped potential for agricultural expansion in KwaZulu-Natal…There is also potential to boost agriculture processing activity in the province given the significant presence of manufacturing activity…” – Trade and Investment KZN
Macadamias South Africa (SAMAC) estimates that the production value from 1991 to 2019 exploded from R3.2 million to around R4.8 billion.
Fruit and vegetable production on the KZN South Coast is also incredibly successful, with cauliflower, spinach, beetroot, lettuce and tomatoes just some of the items grown for local and international consumption. In fact, BBS Farm in Southport has created the unique Heritage Tomato among its world-class selection. Other subtropical crops that do well in the region are flowering and fruiting plants such as citrus, avocado, mango, figs, pineapple and guava.
The area is renowned for its banana production with the section between Port Shepstone and Port Edward accounting for the bulk of banana production in the province. Mac Banana in Port Edward is a great example of the potential for an agricultural venture to shift into agri-tourism, generating profits through restaurants, family-friendly activities and locally-grown produce.
Coffee, too, is lucrative produce grown along the KZN South Coast with great agritourism potential as shown by Beaver Creek Coffee Estate in Port Edward and Mpenjati Coffee in Munster. The demand for quality, organically-grown and sustainable coffee production is on the rise with Statista ranking coffee as ‘among the most consumed beverages worldwide with roughly 42.6 litres per person per year’.
FORESTRY AND AQUACULTURE
Extending from the warm Indian Ocean through to the farming area of Harding, the KZN South Coast’s agricultural sector is extremely diverse. Several commercial timber plantations are located in and around Harding.
The dominant species are pine, eucalyptus and wattle, although the KZN South Coast has recently seen a boom in the tea tree industry the past few years. Being a natural antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-oxidant, tea tree oil has become increasingly popular against the backdrop of Covid-19 with the demand for organic hand sanitizers increasing.
It also has several other key uses with investment opportunities for the production of insect repellent, cosmetics, antiseptics and mouthwashes waiting in the wings.
The ocean’s economy is another area what still needs to be unlocked along the KZN South Coast. The area has two Marine Protected Areas at Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks which are already world-class dive sites, but there is further investment opportunities to be explored in renewable energy production, sustainable fisheries and maritime transport.
With job creation and growing local manufacturing high on government’s agenda at a time when measure need to be urgently put in place to re-ignite economic recovery, further investment across the entire agricultural supply chain is a must.
This includes investment in both existing and new processing technologies.
Mangcu says that examples of investment opportunities include fruit and vegetable canning, sub-tropical fruit juice processing, oil seed production and edible oil processing, processing of organic, vegan/vegetarian products and dehydrated foods, expansion of dairy, bakery, and confectionery production, the commercial propagation of indigenous plants, the extraction of high value food additives and nutraceuticals, indigenous flower farming and the production of crops for feedstock into biofuels.
“It is clear that the agricultural sector is doing well, but there remains tremendous potential to be taken up through the expansion of our dominant products and further development of existing products. This can be achieved by creating strong collaboration between government and the private sector. There is much opportunity to boost our agriculture processing activity,“ she concluded.