Agriculture Investment Opportunities Ripe for the Picking on 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

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.

“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,” commented Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise (SCTIE). “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.”

KZN South Coast agricultural production

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 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. 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 really well in this 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 on the KZN South Coast

Extending from the warm Indian Ocean through to the farming area of Harding, the agricultural sector found on the KZN South Coast is as diverse as it is abundant. In and around Harding can be found several timber plantations for commercial use.

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 antioxidant, tea tree oil has spiked in popularity, particularly against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the demand for organic hand sanitisers. It also has several other key uses to be tapped into, including insect repellent, cosmetics, antiseptics, mouthwashes, and more.

Livestock farming is fairly limited, with cattle the primary livestock found in the area. And while there is a lot of potential in terms of agro-processing opportunities, the ocean’s economy is one that is waiting to be unlocked on 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 a further investment opportunity to be explored in renewable energy production, sustainable fisheries and maritime transport.

Agro-processing on the KZN South Coast

The next investment potential lies in agro-processing – the subset of the manufacturing sector responsible for processing the raw materials. Investment in new processing technologies and increasing the regional capacity to create intermediate goods provide businesses with great opportunities. According to Invest SA, agro-processing opportunities include:

• Fruit and vegetable canning

• Sub-tropical and tropical fruit juice processing

• Oil seed production, edible oil processing, oilcake

• Processing of organic, vegan/vegetarian products and dehydrated foods

• Expansion of dairy, bakery, and confectionery production

• Indigenous plants growing on a commercial scale

• Extracting high-value additives, nutraceuticals

• Non-edible oil processing

• Commercial planting of indigenous flowers

• Production of crops for feedstock into biofuels

“It is clear that the agricultural sector is doing well, but there remains tremendous potential by expanding our dominant products and further developing existing products,” continued Mangcu. “This can be achieved by creating strong collaborations between government and the private sector. There is much opportunity to boost our agriculture processing activity given the significant presence of manufacturing activity found here.”

“South Africa has by far the most modern, productive, and diverse Agribusiness industry. South Africa has the most diversified and industrialised economy. South Africa has a well-developed agricultural sector, which will stand the country in good stead in the face of continuing uncertainty both economically and in terms of the weather, supporting infrastructure (modern and well-developed transport logistics networks in the African continent), and skilled labour. The country has a strong financial and banking sector, healthy legal and regulatory environment for business.” – Invest SA

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