Cape Town - The impending closure of the Langeberg and Ashton Foods (L&AF) fruit canning factory spells disaster for thousands of people who will be affected, Agri SA has said.
Tiger Brands said an exhaustive process to find a buyer for the L&AF business through a local and global search was unsuccessful.
It was anticipated that the consultation process with affected employees would be completed within 60 days, Tiger Brands said.
Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede, on the back of the Agriculture and Agro-Processing Masterplan, said a decision to close shop would have a devastating impact on more than 4 500 workers in the sector, and on the surrounding community.
“Agri SA is deeply concerned about the recent commencement of a consultation period after Tiger Brands gave notice of its intention to close down its canning factory in Ashton, Western Cape.
“The Langeberg and Ashton factory are the biggest in South Africa and one of only two fruit canning factories.
“The world-class factory plays a vital role in enabling South African canned fruit to occupy the niche position it does in the world market. SA is ranked in the top seven canning fruit countries in the world by production, and the factory brings in hundreds of millions of rands in foreign currency,” said Van der Rheede.
Tiger Brands said it was also engaging with relevant provincial and national government departments in attempts to explore available and sustainable commercial solutions.
“In May 2020, Tiger Brands announced its intent to exit the deciduous fruit business. This followed a strategic review and formed part of efforts to better align its portfolio to the group’s future growth aspirations on the African continent and focus on manufacturing, marketing and distributing everyday branded food and beverages.
“Over the past two years, Tiger Brands has sought to find a buyer for the L&AF business with a view to ensuring a controlled exit through a disposal of the business.
“Although the company received a non-binding indicative offer from the Growers Consortium in October 2020, the consortium was unable to secure the funding required to operate the L&AF business as a going concern by the deadline of March 31 2022.
“As at the date of commencement of the consultation process in June 2022, the Growers Consortium has still not been able to show or present to Tiger Brands any commitment of funding in support of their non-binding indicative offer so as to be able to operate the L&AF business as a going concern.”
Cosatu provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn said the union would be approaching the minister of Trade and Industry to intervene.
“Cosatu Western Cape is shocked by the decision of Tiger Brands to close the factory in Ashton, which will lead to thousands of jobs being lost. That decision will have devastating effects on the communities whose livelihood depends on those factories. We are calling on Tiger Brands to review their insensitive decision and engage stakeholders including Cosatu to explore alternatives,” said De Bruyn.