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Filled to capacity, Ellerman to expand as South African cold store modernizes.

Filled to Capacity, Ellerman to Expand As South African Cold Store Modernizes

While trade sanctions against the South African government may be hurting some export-dependent industries, public refrigerated warehouse operators seem to be making the most of things. Indeed, the volume handled at some facilities reflects a growing domestic food market.

Ellerman Cold Storage, which boasts 9,000 tons of capacity in 1.1 million cubic feet of space at Durban Harbor, is moving forward despite today's political-economic climate. As a matter of fact, holding capacity will soon be increased by 20% to 25%. In addition, plans call for installing a modern racking system to better facilitate picking operations.

"We are one of the very few stores in the country whose livelihood depends depends solely on marketing controlled low temperature space," explained W.S. Kirkwood. "We do not market any tangible products such as foodstuffs, and as a result we are strongly affected by the vagaries of the weather, changes in eating habits, and even sanctions."

Kirkwood expanded on South Africa's international trade situation: "Since the cold storage industry here is centered mainly around Cape Town and Durban and is concerned to a large extent with perishable imports and exports, the imposition of sanctions on us has an inhibiting effect on the king of details we publish."

Nonetheless, the Ellerman marketing executive provided general information on the PRW's contemporary product mix, which has changed drastically over the past few years. While locally-produced beef had previously accounted for a large portion of tonnage, it has since been surpassed by mechanically deboned poultry and turkey meat. Fruit concentrates have also made strong gains.

Kirkwood offered the following synopsis of various market segments:

. Fast foods and prepared meal portions posted a national growth rate of 12% in 1988. While representing a relatively small percentage of Ellerman's inventory, it is picking up in popularity. Because of the product line's nature and variety, more labor is required to process such orders.

. While in and out traffic in whole bird poultry has been constant, the largest gains during the past two years have been recorded in mechanically deboned and comminuted chicken and turkey meat. Such products are said to be increasingly used as partial replacements for expensive bovine meats in various delicatessen-type outlets.

. Together, pork, mutton, lamb and venison add up to a reasonably large tonnage. Although sanctions have distorted the picture here, EEC cold room standards are being maintained in hopeful anticipation of future trade barrier relaxation.

. While fish catches have been spasmodic, a fair level of tonnage still passes through Ellerman's warehouse. The main center of frozen seafood trading, however, remains in Cape Town.

. As for sub-tropical fruits such as avocados, uneconomical airfreight rates have not been favorable to commerce. But as the products have short shelf lives, the necessity for strictly controlled chill temperatures has provided cold stores with business opportunities.

. Cheese, butter and margarine are frequently inventoried at the Durban facility. In addition, occasional parcels of indigenous plants such as ferns are stored at the PRW.

. While the government has several large chillers of its own to accommodate citrus harvests, overflows often find their way into commercial stores, and Ellerman gets its share of this action.

. Interestingly, chemical storage at PRWs is in a growth mode. Although not very significant in terms of total volume, sensitive chemicals used in the manufacturing of high-tech end products are being handled in increasing tonnages. Stored at chill temperatures, management exercises extreme caution to see that toxic commodities are kept out.

Summing up the state of Ellerman's business, Kirkwood reported: "We are, and have been working to almost capacity for a considerable time now."
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Title Annotation:Warehousing World; Ellerman Cold Storage
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:company profile
Date:Apr 1, 1989
Words:608
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