“I’d say fruit packers are actually in the service industry,” maintains Hein Punt, general manager of Sawmill Fruit Packers, a new packing facility for its stakeholders Boschendal and Lona Citrus, whose core commodities – stonefruit and citrus – dovetail perfectly.
The packhouse is situated close to the fruit hub of Paarl in the Western Cape.
“We service the requirements of our exporters to have the right quality and specification for the consumer that might buy it, and we service our growers by giving the best treatment of fruit that we can.”
Quoting Churchill, Hein says that the project is now merely at the end of its beginning. “It has been an exciting endeavour with new staff, a new facility, a new machine. We are giving ourselves a season for stonefruit and a season for citrus to set out benchmarks to drive efficiencies and set targets.”
They are in peak plum packing currently, running double shift to handle 300 to 350 bins of plums daily, with an expected annual capacity of 6,000 tonnes stonefruit and 16 000 tonnes citrus.
Packing plums at Sawmill Fruit Packers
Sawmill is currently packing Laetitia with the season ending in the middle of April with Autumn Treat plum.
“Stonefruit is perennial – perennially more difficult,” Hein quips. “The fragmentation of stonefruit varieties require smaller runs – at the most a single stonefruit variety can be packed for two weeks.”
Fruit doesn’t remain longer than 48 hours at most in their holding rooms, he notes, and the complex packing programmes require a vast amount of specialization in terms of packaging.
Anker Gous in the MAF control room
He observes that the unusually large amounts of rain over the Cape in the apricot season significantly reduced the apricot packouts this season.
Citrus season beginning of April with Mihowase Satsuma and will carry on until September finishing of with Midknight Valencia.
“This is going to be a busy packhouse. Citrus could go up to 600 bins per day.”
Christo Dampies and Al-Jerrue Davids preparing to fold boxes
Sawmill Fruit Packers run on a Mafroda line, the first Mafroda sizer used within the Lona Group which, Hein points out, uses Compaq sizers at its Coega and its Burgersfort facilities to pack citrus.
“It’s good to have machines from different companies who come with different paradigms,” he remarks.
For more information:
Sawmill Fruit Packers
Tel: +27 82 775 8730