GROOT-DRAKENSTEIN-based Rhodes Fruit Group (RFG) last month quickly re-opened its fruit canning factory in Tulbagh – a great relief to the company considering strong demand for its brands during the Covid-19 crisis.
It was widely reported that this key production facility was shut for four days for deep cleaning and decontamination after nine employees tested positive for Covid-19.
The closure was ordered by the Department of Employment and Labour (DOL) in early May.
RFG said operations at the factory were initially resumed on a phased basis to protect employees and provide a safe working environment.
RFG CEO Bruce Henderson noted that while the closure had been disruptive to the canning process and there was a national imperative to supply food products during lockdown, the group would not compromise the safety of its employees.
RFG is one of the largest employers in the Witzenberg region – which has been identified as a Covid-19 hotspot.
RFG owns the best-selling Rhodes canned fruit and vegetable range – as well as other brands like Bull Brand, Magpie, Squish, Bisto, Hinds and Pakco.
RFG recently reported increasing turnover by 10% to R2.9 billion in the six months to end March 2020.
The group disclosed that sales for the month of March were 22% higher as households stocked up on essential foods ahead of the national lockdown.
Henderson pointed out that RFG had seen “sustained higher demand” for canned goods throughout the first seven weeks of lockdown.
With sales of canned fruit, vegetables and meat proving particularly strong, Henderson said production had been increased to meet the demand. Unfortunately for RFG, government restrictions on the sale of hot meals (which were implemented more than three weeks into lockdown) meant a marked slowdown in the sale of pies.
In terms of handling further Covid-19 complications, Henderson said the group had effective protocols and experienced operational management teams to reduce the risk of factory closures.
This would ensure rapid cleaning and reopening in the event of infections.