Pick n Pay says it will be a customer of GWK Farm Foods, the newest subsidiary of one of SA’s largest agro-processing groups, which launched on Thursday a R400m wheat flour mill and pasta and biscuit factory in Modderrivier, near Kimberley.
The supermarket chain said it would take about R45m, or 4,500 tonnes, of wheat products from the new facility over 12 months.
The factory is the first producer of food-related fast-moving consumer goods in the Northern Cape.
“I was stunned at the figures. It will be huge,” Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, transformation director at Pick n Pay stores, and chairwoman of the Pick n Pay Foundation, said on Thursday. She said the products would initially be traded at Pick n Pay’s inland operations, and then be considered for sale nationally.
The daughter of Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman was among speakers at the launch including members of provincial and national government.
Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Mzwandile Masina said at the launch on Thursday the new GWK factory dovetailed with the government’s vision of boosting agro-processing within the National Development Plan. It would help alleviate poverty, and encourage black farmers to produce quality products to distribute through GWK, helping boost food security in SA.
Tom Meintjes, GM of grain products for GWK Farm Foods, said the group had invested in significant research and development to keep farmers competitive.
It was accredited to agri-sector training authorities and along with support for fertilisers and irrigation, helped shareholders to access appropriate market value chains. “A lot of black farmers are already shareholders in our business,” he said.
The GWK group turned over R8bn last year, making R164m in profits, part of which it redeems to shareholders over a period of years.
It produces meats, and specialty products including pecan nuts, food oils, livestock feed, wine, and potatoes, while providing services such as food storage, processing, distribution, and financing. It also provides fuels and conducts livestock auctions.
Products made at the new factory include spaghetti, penne, macaroni, and white and brown bread, and cake flours for retail and bulk delivery.
The facility produces about 30 tonnes of biscuits a day.
The group employs about 2,000 people across offices in SA and supplies farm inputs to fertiliser companies, such as Omnia.
The Portuguese set foot in South Africa in the 15th century, and the Dutch settled at the “Cape of Storms” in 1652. But the noses of the first interlopers into southern Africa were not sharp enough to fore-smell Kimberley’s hidden diamonds or the Witwatersrand’s entombed gold.
Diamonds were only discovered in 1867 at Kimberley, and, 19 years later, gold on the Witwatersrand.
The group – of mainly Englishmen and Jews – that descended on Kimberley, following the discovery of diamonds was largely the same bunch of money-mongers who flocked to the Witwatersrand when news of gold broke.
By the time the Witwatersrand became the new Mecca of wealth seekers, Kimberley had already produced a diamond cartel led by Cecil John Rhodes – including such outstanding figures as Alfred Beit, Charles Rudd, Barney Barnato, Julius Wernher, J. B. Robinson, Jules Porgès, H. L. Eckstein, Lionel Phillips, and others.
In Kimberley, Rhodes persuaded most of these men – some of whom were initially his arch-enemies, such as Barnato – to form a cartel to control the price of diamonds in London, then the centre of the global diamond trade. De Beers became the cartelised company, named after brothers Johannes and Diederik De Beer, who had sold the land on which the diamonds were discovered.
On the Witwatersrand, these men formed many gold companies financed by money they had made at Kimberley and through investments from London, Paris, Berlin, and the US.
Although Rhodes was by no means the richest his company, the Goldfields Company, was among the giants.