MODERN FRESH FRUIT FACILITY

Valley Packers has been packing high quality export and local market deciduous and citrus fruit since 1982.

Early in the 1999 packing season a devastating fire destroyed more than 70% of the packshed and cold storage facilities including packed and unpacked fruit. Urgent arrangements had to be made to pack membersí fruit, not yet picked and in controlled atmosphere cold stores at the time of the fire, at neighbouring packhouses. Dr André Neethling, Chairman of Valley Packers Co-op Ltd, says: I wish to thank all our neighbours and others who helped to limit the fire damage and assisted with processing of our crops, especially our management and staff who made many sacrifices and spared no effort to minimise losses. In order to meet new requirements in the handling, packing, refrigeration, storage and marketing of fresh fruit we decided not to re-instate but to invest further capital and to upgrade our facilities. This decision confirms our confidence in the South African fresh fruit industry in spite of recent declining profitability.

In June 1999 Valley Packers appointed the Somerset West firm of consulting engineers and planners, GPB Consulting to plan, design and project manage their new facility. Gerhard Potgieter, Managing Director of GPB Consulting, told the District Mail: In order to accommodate the changing requirements of export and local fresh fruit markets, modern packhouses need to be designed with maximum flexibility.

This new fresh fruit facility is able to pack a large variety of fruit types including plums, apples, pears and citrus utilising waterborne and dry infeed systems. Valley Packers has installed equipment utilising appropriate technology. For instance high technology 12-lane imported Aweta sizers which are able to size and colour grade two classes of fruit simultaneously go hand in hand with manual carton packing and palletising. Rebinning of fruit for later packing or bulk sale is possible using gentle handling hydro and imported rotary bin fillers. In order to maintain freshness and maximise shelf life, packed fruit is recooled in state of the art pressure cooling tunnels and cold stored for distribution in modern drive-in racking.

Because only 8 months were available, the project was broken down into smaller units and more than 40 contractors were appointed for the supply and installation of buildings and equipment. The result was completion within program to allow packing of this seasonís fruit. Rod Nelsen, Managing Director of Valley Packers says: Valley Packers has an excellent record of supplying quality fruit to overseas and local markets. Our new facilities will allow us to further improve on our past performance and provide our members and clients with the best available value added packing, cooling and distribution service.

On Wednesday 17 May 2000, Peter Dall, Chairman of the Deciduous Fruit Producersí Trust, officially opened the new fruit facility. The corner stone of Valley Packers Co-op and its success has been pooling resources for the common good of all its members but never losing traceability of the fruit and freedom of choice of the individual. This has been a difficult road to steer as the members and directors will be able to tell you and they should be congratulated on the way they have managed to steer a very difficult path which many other co-operative packhouses are trying to steer today, and I believe they could do well to study the Valley Packers experience, vision and mission in achieving this very unique identity.

- Fire destroyed packhouse
- New fresh fruit facility

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