Tiger Brands to extend operations of fruit business for another season

South Africa’s largest food producer Tiger Brands (TBSJ.J) said on Tuesday its fruit canning business would extend operations for a further season to save over 4,500 jobs, while it talks to possible buyers for the unit.

The extension adds a bit of certainty about the future of the business, which was at risk of being shut down after a two- year “exhaustive” process to find a buyer failed this year as interested parties were unable to secure funding.

The maker of Jungle Oats and Tastic announced in May that it had terminated the process of finding a buyer and had started talks with key stakeholders including permanent and seasonal employees about the future of the business.

In recent weeks, however, a significant number of parties have expressed an interest in further discussions on the possible acquisition of the business, the company said.

But any transaction for the business would not take place in time for any successful buyer to put the required preparations in place to process the forthcoming season’s crop, it added.

As a result and in discussions with key partners including union members and employees, it has decided to extend operations for another season which will secure the jobs of 250 permanent employees and 4,300 seasonal workers, Tiger Brands said.

“The terms agreed upon will contribute to significantly mitigating the risk of operating losses in the forthcoming season,” it added.

Based in the Western Cape, the Langeberg & Ashton Foods business produces canned fruit, such as peaches and guavas, and fruit purees largely for the export market.

It also supplies Tiger Brands’ culinary division, under the KOO brand, and All Gold and Hugo’s jam brands, as well as the baby category.