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FMO together with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group and Danish Sustainable Development Goals Investment Fund managed by the Investment Fund for Developing Countries (“IFU”) announced an investment in Mbiza Trading Ltd. (currently being renamed to United Exports) to support a 180-hectare blueberry farm expansion and infrastructure upgrades. United Exports/Mbiza is a family-owned trading and holding company that produces and markets blueberries under its proprietary “OZblu” brand.
The financing from the three leading development finance institutions will enable the company to increase its planting and packing capacities to capture market share in the fast-growing international market for blueberries. The lenders will provide a long-term financing package to support the company’s expansion program. The instrument was specifically designed to assume early-stage risk not offered by commercial banks.
“The support from three leading development finance institutions will help us increase availability of these new varieties to meet the demand of markets as well as improve technology used by our farms, thus increasing their efficiency and incomes,” said Roger Horak, Founder and Group CEO of United Exports/Mbiza.
“South Africa needs to expand efficient companies that can create jobs and grow the economy. The country has the potential to further leverage its competitive agribusiness sector and IFC is committed to working with the best companies and partners to make that happen,” said Kevin Njiraini, IFC Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“With this facility to United Exports/Mbiza, FMO is helping South Africa to establish itself as an emerging blueberry production hub, resulting in large-scale job-creation in communities that have a very high unemployment rate and further development of the industry,” said Hans Bogaard, FMO’s Manager Agribusiness Food and Water for Africa.
“The financing for United Exports/Mbiza is a good example on how we can assist private companies in growing their business, increasing local jobs, food production as well as rural development, which is in line with our aim to support the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Johnny Ohgrøn Hansen, IFU Regional Director for Southern Africa.
United Exports/Mbiza expects to create 200 to 250 new permanent jobs and another 4,200 seasonal jobs, many of which will be women. The proposed investment will be complemented by advisory service that will helps strengthens supply, raises rural employment, and creates jobs along the food supply chain, and expands new domestic and export markets.
Blueberries are an increasingly popular berry among consumers, who have been increasing consumption of them over the past few decades as new varieties have made them easier to buy and store. In 2017, South Africa exported $50 million worth of fresh berries and blueberries being a significant portion, of which United Exports/Mbiza accounted for 30 percent.