On this week’s Marketplace Africa, CNN International’s Cyril Vanier meets ZZ2 CEO Tommie van Zyl who talks about the company’s heritage and how avocados, cherries and dates play into their international expansion plans.
With deep roots as one of Africa’s largest family-owned tomato farms, South Africa’s ZZ2 is now looking towards market growth. Van Zyl speaks about how the company has diversified its product offerings to grow their market share, “Our main business is primarily agricultural products. We started off since incorporation as a tomato farming operation producing single-mindedly the tomatoes for the local market in South Africa. 25 years ago, we started expanding into crops that we can export, which I would say have more unlimited growth opportunities. So, our business has then evolved into apples and pears, avocados, Medjool dates, low chill cherries, and in a very unique market window blueberries.”
As business relationships deepen between Africa and Asia, opportunities for companies in both regions have continued to grow. Van Zyl discusses how ZZ2 is hoping to expand into Asian markets, “I would say in our industry, the main growth opportunity is in the avocado business. That’s the overwhelming opportunity, especially if China and the Asian countries are going to open up for us as a market. And there we will depend on our government and those governments to make agreements in terms of access to those markets.”
Another product that will help ZZ2’s international growth is cherries. Van Zyl tells Vanier that the company has found a way to grow cherries when the fruit is unavailable in other markets, “Cherries that are in the market October and November. Now in those two months, there are no cherries, any other place in the world. We found genetic materials that brings us right into that slot when there are no cherries. It’s still a very small industry, but we see it as a huge growth opportunity going into the next 10 to 15 years.”
As the push for more sustainable methods of farming impacts the industry, van Zyl believes sustainability will reduce costs in the long run, “Sustainability implies that in the long run, your costs will be lower. So, if we employ better drainage systems that support the growth of the roots of our crop, and because of that, you have less clogging of water. You have better balance in the soil. The yield per hectare that you receive over time is higher. And if you have a high yield per hectare, all your costs are divided by a bigger number. And that means your unit cost is lower.”
With so many opportunities for growth, van Zyl sees a bright future for ZZ2. He discusses the company’s targets, “The medium-term goal over the next five years is to strengthen our ecosystem. We need to get South Africa strongly established as part of the global network of fresh produce. We have the ability to produce much more than what we do at the moment. I think we have a very valuable offering to customers globally.”