SOUTH AFRICA – Suiderland Plase, a South African grower, packer and marketer of citrus and table grapes, has commenced operations at its newly built packhouse at Bergpak.

This is the company’s third packhouse and one that will specifically be used to pack various citrus cultivars.

It is fashioned with four multiple laned sorters, two sizers and cooling facilities with a space for 1,200 bins.

The cooling facilities, according to Fresh Plaza, have the capacity to bring 308 pallets down to 0°C and can also degreen.

Other than having state-of-the-art machinery, Bergpak is equipped with solar energy and a runoff dam, where used water from the packhouse is treated with enzymes to a point where it can be re-used for irrigation or released into a natural stream as clean water.

“Bergpak will contribute to our business in various ways. Its production capacity will gradually increase, and by the third year of production the teams will be able to pack 120,000 bins of fruit per year.

“The two sizers will enable us to run two varieties simultaneously. If everything runs smoothly, the fruit is clean and the sizing is good, we could eventually have the capacity for 280,000 bins in a season,” said Albert Coetzee, operations manager at Suiderland Plase.

According to Coetzee, Bergpak will start handling bigger volumes next season when phase 2 is commissioned.

“This season we’re using to establish our staff, train them and solve challenges with regards to implementation with lower volumes,” notes Pieter Rabe, Suiderland Plase’s human resources manager.

Currently, 70,000 bins of citrus are packed at the company’s Wespak hub and another 60,000 bins at Suiderpak hub, its two pack houses near Clanwilliam and Swellendam.

South Africa’s fresh produce sector is highly important to the local economy as it is one of the top foreign exchange earners, thus it is characterized with increasing investment by players and heightened competition.

Beefing up its presence in the bullish sector, Lona Group, one of the country’s leading citrus and fresh-produce exporter, acquired a majority stake in industry peer, Unlimited Group (UG), forming a new juggernaut in the sector.

Tie up of the two companies will have a combined export and import volume of more than 8 million cartons of fruit and vegetables and over 4,000 ha of fruit on owned, managed, or licensed farms.

Unlimited Group, an integrated producer, packer, processor, exporter and importer of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts, stands to benefit from Lona’s deep capital investment in fruit packhouses, cold rooms and port facilities across the country.

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