Johannesburg - The South African wine and agriculture sector had a good run in China during the South African expos there this week. Export opportunities have also been identified in aquaculture.

Lucky Tshayivithi, the head of trade and investment at Buffalo City municipality in the Eastern Cape, said that after 10 years of negotiations, the municipality would start exporting certain agricultural products, particularly vegetables, to Jingju.

It is one of the provinces of China that has a large demand for fresh produce.

Jingju would need at least 500 tons of vegetables every three months from Buffalo City, Tshayivithi said.

“So there is a huge demand. We are already engaged with a number of farms in the area so that they are able to produce what we need to export.”

The Eastern Cape Development Corporation has partnered with the city of Ningbo in northern China and has begun exporting and marketing South African fresh produce.

Wine marketing company Bayede, whose wines are now sold in all Walmart stores in China, will be coming back from its visit to China with a new export agreement.

The agreement is that every year it will send four containers with 12 400 bottles of its new wine brand to China. The company plans to start shipping the new selection at the end of the month.

Bayede exports at least 12 containers a year – nearly 200 000 bottles of wine – to China. The company’s chief executive, Antoinette Vermooten, said the Chinese were paying more than the European markets for certain wines.

“For the wine industry, this should be the focus. One of our wines we will sell for 2 400 yuan [about R3 875]. People think China wants cheap but they want good quality. We are getting much more than in Europe,” Vermooten said.

Bayede’s new high-end wine selection includes the seven best wines in the country from different wine farms.

Lester Bouah, the general manager of investment promotion at Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal, said a new opportunity that South Africa needed to pursue was growing sea cucumbers. The Asian market for sea cucumbers is estimated to be $60 million (about R595m) and Bouah said China was desperately looking for new imports.

Sea cucumbers were being sold for 1 000 yuan a kilogram. The plant is mainly used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine, specifically soups and stews.

“There’s an opportunity where we should go back to South Africa, especially in the coastal areas, and get the communities to grow this and sell it to China. It’s not only about the money but also a job creation element,” Bouah said.

There is already a project in the Eastern Cape that grows food that is not consumed in South Africa as a staple.

A community near Port Alfred is growing macadamia nuts and has had its first harvest this year. The project was developed because of demand from Australia and now it needs to be expanded to meet the demand.

According to the Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association website, the main growing areas are in Levubu and Tzaneen in Limpopo; from Hazyview to Barberton in Mpumalanga; and the coastal regions of KwaZulu-Natal.

Bouah said equity investors in China were looking for tourism investment, particularly projects in hotel and beach resort development.

“The tourism ones seemed to be more interesting to them.

“But there are a couple of manufacturing projects – like aluminium slugs and [the] automotive components supplier park – where they were keen to listen to us to see if there are opportunities for them.”

Another industry that grabbed Chinese attention was the manufacturing of renewable energy components.

KwaZulu-Natal is looking to develop a renewable energies development hub at the Dube Trade Port opposite the King Shaka International Airport.

“What you are finding at the moment is that a lot of Chinese are bringing in complete technology or complete parts that only need assembling.

“What we want is to manufacture locally in this hub and we can extract those Chinese companies and partner with them… I’m meeting a couple of companies who are very keen on doing that,” Bouah said. - Business Report