Baroness Elizabeth Sugg, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, visited the Blue Skies fresh-cut fruit facility in Corby.
Blue Skies is a business that produces fresh-cut fruit, ice-cream and freshly squeezed juice for retailers all over the world. It has facilities in the UK, Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Senegal, Ivory Coast and will be opening a new state-of-the-art factory in Benin in February this year. Collectively the group employs over 4,000 people at its peak.
The visit comes ahead of the forthcoming UK-Africa Investment Summit, which is being hosted by the Prime Minister on the 20th of January and will be attended by a number of African Heads of State.
The Minister was accompanied by the Member of Parliament for Corby, Tom Pursglove. They were given an introduction to the business by Founder and Chairman, Anthony Pile, who emphasised the need for more businesses like Blue Skies that were prepared to set up operations that processed the finished ‘value-added’ products in Africa. In this way, businesses would be able to help create more opportunities for employment, skills development and technology transfer, and return more profits to the countries that produced much of the raw materials.
During the visit, the Minister was introduced to staff at Blue Skies UK and spoke with representatives of the company’s facilities in Ghana and Senegal over a live video link. She also toured the production area where she saw fresh mango from Ghana being made into a fruit salad for Waitrose, who are also partner Blue Skies through the Waitrose Foundation.
Anthony Pile said: “We were delighted to welcome Baroness Sugg to our facility in Corby today, and it is greatly encouraging that she and the British Government continue to value what businesses like ours are achieving in Africa. We believe in the principle of making world-class products in the countries where the fruit grows, whilst respecting the needs of people and the environment where we work. We wish British entrepreneurs and other UK businesses would do what we have done and ‘roll up their sleeves’ and get involved in making things work on the ground. There would be the joy of doing something worthwhile and we guarantee fun and excitement too! This is the best way to truly bring about opportunities that will make a real difference to people’s lives”