It is an established fact that the Eastern Cape is one of the lesser performing economies in South Africa. Blessed with vast open areas and wildlife to attract tourism along with three commercial harbours, one would think that the massive amounts of exports would also help this fragile economy.
First – a small lesson in wealth creation:
- In order for a municipality such as Nelson Mandela Bay to create wealth for it’s citizens it has to concentrate on a mix of businesses that will create jobs that produce products for export outside of the area – adding value to raw materials for export – or that attract people from outside of the area to the area – you may know those people as ‘tourists’.
- The development of shops and malls does contribute to creating an attraction point for tourists but as they are aimed mostly at local residents do not really serve the aim of attracting more money to the municipal area – a circular internal economy which eventually spirals down is the result.
Within the boundaries of Nelson Mandela Bay we have a business that exports around 200 containers of beneficated product a year, representing 95% of their production.
Based in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) Dynamic Commodities manufactures a number of products for export including; Island Way Sorbet, Bit’s O Juice, So:Shi, Pepabys, Frozen Fruit, Apple & Oats – Port Elizabeth locals will recognise the Island Way Sorbet and So:Shi products from their local stores.
The products manufactured by Dynamic Commodities are seasonal and based on the fresh fruits available. The first product launched – Island Way Sorbet – uses natural fruit shells as the container for frozen sorbets. The sales cycle follows the North American market which does not purchase large amounts of sorbets during their winter holiday period – leading to severely curtailed production November to January.
In order to keep production going for a longer period, Dynamic Commodities developed a number of other products such as Pepabys Sweet Piquant Peppers whose main market is Germany; Frozen Fruit Pieces find their way to Japan and other countries.
As Adrian Vardy, CEO of Dynamic Commodities explains; “Our product is seasonal and everything we do involves the processing of agricultural products. This leads to a difficult labour situation where we can’t maintain a full workforce of around 1300 people for the entire year as we do not have raw materials to process all year through. This means that we have to outsource our labour requirements in order to fill in the peaks. Our skill is in processing frozen fruits and sorbets and not in managing seasonal labour.”
With reference to the industrial action against Dynamic Commodities during May and June 2017 Vardy was visibly emotional as he recounted the terror experienced by female employees when the bus they were traveling in was petrol bombed by strikers not directly employed by Dynamic Commodities.
Acknowledging that the company as a result needed to adjust their focus on the seasonal workers not directly employed, Vardy said that the company had over a number of months changed their value statement to include all workers, focused more on seasonal worker well being and embarked on a process of working more closely with local communities representative of their seasonal workforce. “We have to remedy our mindset which was laser focused on exports to also taking cogniscance of local needs,” said Vardy.
Before MyPE interviewed Vardy we taste tested some product by giving a few of the Island Way Sorbets to a friend down from Johannesburg. When told that the product was a Port Elizabeth innovation with export revenues of around R150 Million per annum, said friend was flabbergasted that such a product could be born and exported from our little neck of the woods.
As an example of the perception that people from outside of Port Elizabeth have of Dynamic Commodities Vardy offered up this snippet; “We had a visit from the then MD of Famous Brands, Kevin Hedderwick, who said that Dynamic Commodities is the best company that no-one has ever heard of!”
Vardy says that the company employs a core of 300 people which, according to season will swell to 600 and then 1300 at peak times for periods ranging from three to six months.
Produce is sourced from local farms and the estimated labour force involved is also in the thousands.
On all fronts, ‘the best company that no-one has ever heard of‘ ticks all the right boxes as it provides employment opportunities on farms and locally, supports procurement from disabled organisations, beneficates raw product for export and brings much needed foreign money INTO the local economy.