Despite a recent slump in beer sales, an optimistic South African Breweries (SAB) has officially opened its new R650m Ibhayi Brewery at Perseverance near Port Elizabeth in the eastern Cape.

The brewery has an annual production of 230 million litres of beer, which when operating at full production is able to fill 50,000 750ml glass bottles an hour - at a rate of 14 per second, according to Norman Adami, Chairman of SAB Ltd.

Trade and Industry minister, Alec Erwin, opened the plant Thursday. One of the main aims of the 18-month building project was to provide as much work for the local labour force in the Eastern Cape, which has an extremely high unemployment rate.

He said 60% of the R650m was allocated to South African companies, of which R155m was spent in the Eastern Cape, after initial estimates of around R100m.

Arnold Kirkby