Overview of Economic Profile

Thabo Mofutsanyane has about 26.8% share of Free State population. The district covers the eastern part of the province and borders Lesotho and KwaZulu Natal Province. The district is known for its tourist attractions such as the Drakensburg and Maluti Mountain ranges, with the most famous attraction being the Golden Gate Highland National Park. Although the district seems to be well known as a tourist destination, agriculture in the district is the biggest contributor to the province’s economy. Some of the well-known towns in the district include Clarens, Ficksburg, Harrismith, and QwaQwa.

The district is the second smallest contributor to the Free State’s GDP with community services, financial services and wholesale, retail and trade being the main contributing sectors. The district furthermore, has the second smallest annual importing and exporting value for the five districts.The export trend of the district has however been increasing gradually since 2004/05. The dominant exporting sector is the manufacturing sector followed by the agricultural sector. The main commodities are ‘other chemicals’, and man-made fibres, followed by basic chemicals.

Due to its regional characteristics, the approach to the Eastern Free State is two-pronged: on the one hand agri-beneficiation and, on the other hand, tourism development.As a result of its strong contribution to the country’s total field crop harvest, the Free State is often labelled as the bread basket of SA. The production of wheat and grain sorghum, sunflower seeds, maize, wool, mohair, milk, cream and vegetables, is complimented by major investments in livestock production. Free State farmers also account for large percentages of beef and mutton production. It therefore makes good business sense that the Eastern Free State be developed as a food processing hub.

In this regards a major step has been taken with the restructuring of UNICO at Bethlehem into the largest meat processing plant in SA.Not only are agricultural products in abundance for processing activities, but the necessary infrastructure also exists. An example of a forward-linked industry that benefits from agri-processing is Boxmore International, which is a plant in Harrismith, manufacturing bottles for fruit juices, carbonated drinks and bottling of mineral water.

The Thabo Mofutsanyane district will undoubtedly benefit from the development of the broader KwaZulu-Natal – Free State – Gauteng development corridor. The launch of the Harrismith Vehicle Distribution Centre in 2012 is one of the catalyst projects that will see the development of an inland logistics hub in the Eastern Free State.The mountainous Eastern Free State with the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains bordering Lesotho, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape, also offer some of the most scenic and attractive tourism attractions in the region.