Capespan and Namibia Grape Company inaugurate Walvis Bay Project

On Wednesday 29 November Capespan joined its partners from the National Youth Service, through the Namibia Grape Company, to celebrate the first commercial shipment of Namibian produced table grapes through the port of Walvis Bay.

The celebration was honoured by the presence of various dignitaries, including the Hon. Agnes Tjongarero, Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service; Her Worship, Councilor Saara Mutondokwa, Deputy Major of Walvis Bay; Mr. Andrew Kanime, NAMPORT CEO; Mr. Richwell Lukonga, Chairperson of Namibia Grape Company (NGC); Mr. Angelo Petersen, Chairperson of Capespan Namibia; Mr. Jacob Hamutenya, NYS Deputy Board Chairperson; Dr. Felix Musukubili, National Youth Service Commissioner; Mr. Ian Fairlie – Reefer, Director, the Mediterranean Shipping Company and Mr. Charl du Bois, Commercial Executive of Capespan.

Capespan and Namibia Grape Company inaugurate Walvis Bay Project

Left to right: Mr. Angelo Peterson, Chairperson of Capespan Namibia, Mr. Richwell Lukonga, Chairperson of Namibia Grape Company (NGC), Hon. Florian Donatus, Walvis Bay Constituency Councilor, Hon. Agnes Tjongarero, Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Mr. Andrew Kanime, NAMPORT CEO, Her Worship, Councilor Saara Mutondokwa, Deputy Major of Walvis Bay, Mr. Charl du Bois, Capespan Commercial executive

Table grapes are a highly perishable crop grown mainly for the export market in Namibia and South Africa. In total there are 2 270 ha of table grapes in Namibia, grown by 11 different companies. The industry exports about 3 500 containers per year and employs around 10 000 Namibians as permanent or seasonal workers, many of whom are women that work in table grape packhouses.

Capespan manages the table grape farms owned by the National Youth Service of Namibia since 2009 through the Namibian Grape Company (NGC). Based in Aussenkehr the NGC has been a partner to Capespan since 2009. Over the past 14 years the NGC and Capespan have jointly strived to improve the farm by getting access to premium international table grape breeding programmes, improving infrastructure, and improving logistical operations.

With 475 hectares under production it is the biggest table grape producer in Namibia. This public / private partnership has stood the test of time and, after significant capital investments over the years, the NGC is truly a world class table grape farm and a jewel of the Namibian agricultural industry. This year the NGC will produce in excess of 2 million cartons of export grade table grapes, amounting to around 800 x 40” reefer containers.

Her Hon. Minister Tjongarero highlighted the fact that the Namibian government’s mission was to create an environment where entrepreneurial private companies, like Capespan, could thrive, during her keynote address. She recognized the critical role of export- oriented agriculture in creating jobs and foreign income for Namibia.

This week saw the first large scale export of table grapes from Namibia via the new container terminal situated in the port of Walvis Bay on the container ship MSC Sweden, with the NGC having the biggest number of containers on board of all Namibian growers. This is one example of how the NGC and Capespan Namibia are leaders in table grape production in Namibia.

The NGC and Capespan started discussions with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) in July of this year to trial the shipping of table grape containers via Walvis Bay.

Namport, as well as other service providers like container depots, transporters and logistical service providers, were extremely helpful in adjusting their operations to facilitate the very quick turnaround times needed for highly perishable produce.
Mr. Andrew Kanime, CEO of Namibian port operator Namport, in his address committed that Namport would ensure it delivered a world class service, to ensure table grape cargo volumes would in future prefer Walvis Bay to beleaguered South African ports in future.

Capespan will export more than 275 containers from Walvis Bay this year with MSC, being about 1/3 of the NGC crop. In total MSC plans to export 1 000 containers, which in turn is around 1/3 of the Namibian crop.
This is cargo that would normally have been trucked to the port of Cape Town and exported via South Africa. Shipping through Walvis Bay has the benefit that it saves around 4 days of shipping versus Cape Town, and therefore ensures fresher fruit for customers. The port is also very efficient and does not suffer from wind delays or poor productivity like Cape Town, making Walvis Bay a compelling export hub. Capespan’s international customers are extremely excited about the prospects for this new supply route, as it is estimated fruit will arrive at least one week sooner in the market compared to shipments from Cape Town.

It is clear that Walvis Bay, in terms of operations, is a viable export alternative. There are enough trucks in Namibia, but a lack of sufficient specialised reefer generator sets that can ensure stable temperature for highly perishable table grapes. To overcome this, Capespan used South African trucks belonging to Macdonalds transport in addition to Namibian operators, with the required equipment to transport the grapes from Aussenkehr to Walvis Bay.

Mr du Bois acknowledged that there are challenges, like the 508 km longer round trip from Aussenkehr for trucks versus Cape Town, predicted that the competitive logistical solution provided by Walvis Bay will surely attract more cargo from Capespan and others in future. He pointed out that it could well be that not only the 3500 containers of Namibian grapes will soon be exported via Walvis Bay, but that fruit grown in South African will also seek out this fast and efficient logistical route in future.