Western Cape finance, economic development and tourism MEC Alan Winde. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Western Cape finance, economic development and tourism MEC Alan Winde. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

THE Western Cape will partner with the French island Réunion to lift innovation in the province’s agro-processing industry.

Agro-processing is one of the Western Cape’s biggest growth sectors, contributing R12bn to its gross domestic product and employing 50,000 people.

Earlier this year, the provincial government said it would collaborate with the Dutch agricultural industry to grow its agro-processing sector and increase its market share in Europe.

Western Cape finance, economic development and tourism MEC Alan Winde said on Wednesday that a delegation from the province had been invited to the 3rd Food Innovation Symposium in Réunion in November.

Mr Winde made the announcement ahead of his address at a discussion at Le Cap40, a network focusing on developing business links between the Western Cape and France. Western Cape trade with France, which governs Réunion, totalled R3.7bn in 2011.

"The surest way to boost the competitiveness of our local agro-processing industry is to embrace innovation. Through this mutually beneficial partnership (with Réunion), we can explore new ways of growing this key sector. This is an area of our economy with major opportunity for growth and job creation," Mr Winde said.

A visit to Réunion in 2010 by the Western Cape department of economic development and tourism, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the Agricultural Research Foundation provided the foundation for co-operation between the two regions.

Last year, 20 major food companies from Réunion attended the CPUT Food Innovation Symposium. This has been followed by projects between the two regions, including a student exchange programme between CPUT and the University of Réunion.

Research areas include extracting natural ingredients from plants and new technologies in the preservation of tropical fruits.

In addition, researchers from Réunion, the University of Stellenbosch and the Agricultural Research Foundation are investigating new projects in innovation and the food industry.