This report focuses on the manufacture of wooden containers, including pallets, crates, bins, boxes, wine barrels, vats and cable drums. It includes information on the state and size of the sector and factors that influence it. There are profiles of 32 companies including FS Smit & Co, which started making wine barrels in 1880, York Timbers, the largest manufacturer of wooden containers in South Africa, and Kimmo, the first company in South Africa to develop and manufacture a corrugated fibreboard pallet.
Manufacture of Wooden Containers
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, difficulties faced by the wooden container manufacturing sector included rapidly-rising input costs, imports of cheap wine barrels and the use of alternative materials. During lockdown, the forestry sector was declared an essential service, and 60% to 70% of businesses relating to wood products, such as those used for packaging and transport of essential items, were able to continue operating, and pallets were used to move goods such as food, medicine and sanitisers. The ban on local alcohol sales during lockdown had a significant impact on wine farms, cellars and related businesses.
Wooden pallets face increasing competition from plastic pallets, many of which are made from recycled plastic which is waterproof and has a longer lifespan than wood. Wooden wine barrels have become expensive and reconditioning of old barrels has increased. Oak alternatives include the use of powder, granules, chips, blocks and staves which are infused into wine rather than putting wine into oak barrels.
Opportunities for SMEs
There are challenges with access to raw materials, and imported machinery required for tasks such as barrel making is expensive. Access to heat treatment facilities and reliable timber suppliers are necessary to become a major player. Informal vendors have created small businesses selling wooden window boxes for planting flowers, herbs and vegetables with scrap planks which are readily available.