Agricultural production facilities are proving their worth at Dube TradePort in Durban — last year they secured two private-sector investments.
Dube TradePort, a trade and logistics hub, is the biggest project by KwaZulu-Natal’s department of economic affairs and tourism — and the first of its kind in SA.
It moved from construction to operational phase in mid-2010 and aims to be the nucleus of an "aerotropolis" around Durban’s King Shaka Airport.
Dube TradePort’s focus on higher-value air freight is meant to complement the logistics services of the ports of Durban and Richards Bay, which deal with high-bulk and heavy seaborne cargo.
Shree Property Group, one of SA’s biggest handlers of citrus fruit, signed a R300m deal to take up 18 property sites in the Dube Trade-Zone last year and has taken up a further three sites.
Shree Property’s aim is to develop a warehouse and distribution facility adjacent to King Shaka’s cargo terminal, Dube TradePort Corporation acting CEO Ayesha Swalah says on the company’s website.
Reelin Bearings signed a R35m deal last October to develop a bearing manufacturing facility in the TradeZone, she says.
Dube TradePort property executive Hamish Erskine this week said four other property development deals were being negotiated. Phase one of the TradeZone properties, which are zoned for hotel, office and retail-type businesses, is about 80% complete.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and tulips are being grown in Dube AgriZone’s 16 hectares of glass-houses, one of the biggest facilities of its type in the southern hemisphere. Qutom Farms supplies 80% of the cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes it grows over 12ha at the AgriZone for Woolworths.
A tiny percentage is sold in the broader Durban market. Thai Tulip production was started over 4ha last September and the flowers are exported daily to Holland by Air Emirates.
A tissue culture facility allows patented plant material to be sold, exported or used in the AgriZone. The facility will be used by KwaZulu-Natal’s agricultural sector, says Mr Erskine.
Dube iConnect had "done well" since 2010 as a data network infrastructure provider with about 40 customers, says Mr Erskine.
Dube TradePort is also responsible for of King Shaka Airport’s air services strategy and a key aim this year is to secure a route to London. Emirates is the only international airline operating out of the King Shaka Airport. Other routes to the East, such as to Singapore or China, or to Europe or the US would be sought, he says.
An agreement has been signed with airline SA Express to expand the regional air services network to 10 South African Development Community destinations. Harare "is pumping" while flights between Lusaka "are doing really well".
Mr Erskine says that "on the whole", Dube TradePort’s development is within projections made at the start of the project. Some aspects, such as the AgriZone and iConnect, are ahead of schedule, while property development has been affected by a weaker economy. Notwithstanding this, the industrial property market has remained relatively resilient through the tough economic conditions, he says.
The provincial government last year allocated additional amounts of R50m, R180m and R220m for infrastructure at Dube TradePort over the next three years, according to media reports.
Mr Erskine says the appointment of a new CEO is "imminent" following the resignation of Rohan Persad in August last year ahead of a probity report into allegations of corruption. Mr Persad was accused of involvement in a scheme to acquire 40% of Worldwide Flight Services SA — which had a R50m cargo-handling contract at King Shaka Airport — in exchange for him ensuring that the company was granted further contracts.
A provincial department of economic affairs spokesman said he "understood" the allegations had been referred to the police, but this was not verified by the South African Police Service when Business Day inquired. Mr Erskine says Dube TradePort now manages the cargo handling itself.
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