One of the Industrial Development Corporation agro-industries unit's pride investments is the 36.5% stake it holds in Karsten Group Holdings, a diversified agricultural and exporting company that is one of South Africa's largest unlisted agricultural enterprises.
This is one of the IDC's oldest investments, dating back to the 1990s, and an example of its long-term view on projects in which it invests. Karsten Group Holdings has received multiple loans and investments over the years as its operations have expanded and also as the benefit to local communities has risen.
South Africa has long been recognised globally for the high quality of its fruit production and fruit exports make up 43% of the country's agricultural and food exports. The potential to establish a thriving table-grape industry in the Northern Cape — the only black spot-free area in the country — was identified by the IDC and its support has helped companies like Karsten to realise this potential.
Its operations now extend almost 400km along the Orange River, a factor that helps the business extend the production season and mitigate against agricultural risk.
Established in 1968 in Upington as a family business, the operation has expanded to encompass fruit farms, packing facilities in the Northern and Western Cape, export and logistics companies, an import and distribution business in the United Kingdom, a sales office in China and a small production and pack-house facility in Egypt.
The Karsten operations satisfy all the IDC selection criteria, from the development of a local industry with an export focus to strong job-creation opportunities in rural areas and a successful empowerment element, and is therefore a key asset.
The IDC's support has helped to grow the business over the years to now employ more than 1 400 permanent workers and almost 4 000 seasonal workers.
Agro-industries business unit head Rian Coetzee said new opportunities were continually being sought and the United States export market was now being explored in a bid to diversify export earnings.
The IDC plays an influential role in helping businesses to identify such opportunities, after which it supports them to turn that opportunity into reality. This type of expansion can also be spread across the various funds and schemes at its disposal to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from new business opportunities.