Corrugated packaging production. Picture: SUPPLIED
Corrugated packaging production. Picture: SUPPLIED

Mpact has opened its newly expanded corrugated packaging factory in Port Elizabeth, geared towards servicing the growing citrus fruit export industry in the Eastern Cape.

The R150m investment is centred on a new German-made state-of-the-art paper board corrugating machine that more than doubles the factory’s capacity, while improving product quality, production efficiencies and energy use. This has been driven by increased demand for citrus packaging in the province after substantial investments by Mpact clients.

The expansion is part of Mpact Corrugated’s extensive modernisation programme, which has invested more than R800m over the past six years.

The Mpact group has corrugated production facilities across SA and also in Namibia and Mozambique.

"The expansion extends Mpact Corrugated’s national manufacturing footprint, which enables us to consistently offer the highest levels of quality and service to our customers," Johan Stumpf, Mpact Corrugated MD, said on Wednesday. He said the Eastern Cape was a big grower of oranges, lemons and mandarins for export. The Port Elizabeth factory also provided packaging for other foods, including dairy products.

Stumpf said Mpact had delivered the project on time and within budget. Mpact was also spending another R35m on a new boxing and printing machine in the Port Elizabeth factory, spending about R185m in total. "This work is progressing well and is on schedule for completion during the second half of 2018," he said.

The factory upgrade comes after South African citrus exports had grown from about 80-million cartons a year 10 years ago to about 120-million cartons now, and an expected 150-million boxes annually within 10 years, Stumpf said.

Victor Korsten, CEO of Coega Dairy, a longtime customer of Mpact, said the dairy had been associated with Mpact in Port Elizabeth since its inception in 2010. "Over the years Mpact has supported us with product development, innovation and supply chain management. So … it’s a great pleasure to congratulate [it on its] new facility and we look forward to a long relationship with the company."

Along with the citrus industry, dairy production has been growing in the region, using the export facilities provided by the Coega special economic zone.

"Our capital investments across the group — such as the one in Port Elizabeth [and] the recently commissioned R765m Felixon paper mill project [in KwaZulu-Natal] and the new R100m jumbo bin injection-moulding machine — are all geared towards ensuring our customers get the best quality products that are worth their price," said Bruce Strong, Mpact Group CEO.

It is estimated that the South African agricultural sector uses about 2.7-million jumbo bins, in which citrus fruit is almost exclusively transported, along with apples and pears.