The Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) is hoping Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan will use his 2022/23 budget speech to address the challenges at South Africa's ports.
Delays and backlogs at the ports are threatening the longer-term sustainability and profitability of the citrus industry, as well as the 130 000 jobs its sustains, the association has said on many occasions.
Another issue the association has raised include significant increases in input costs, such as fuel, fertiliser and electricity. However, its biggest concern is the surge witnessed in freight costs over the past year.
Some shipping lines have hiked their prices by as much as 150%, CGA avers, illustrating that it now costs between two and two-and-a-half times as much to ship the fruit, as it does to produce it over the course of a year.
CGA agreed at an indaba held by the association in Pretoria earlier this month that it will investigate the feasibility of collaborating with other fruit sectors to take control of their shipping, to guarantee some price stability in the future.
Other issues the association wants to bring to government’s attention is operational issues at ports, as a result of aging and out-of-service equipment, as well as staff shortages.
The perennial productivity problems at the Durban port, which handles 60% of the country’s citrus exports, were further compounded by the recent rain and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal.
Despite the “impressive efforts” by State-owned freight utility Transnet and the eThekwini municipality to ensure the damage to port access roads and the port itself was repaired in record time, it still interrupted the start of the season with many growers having to delay their harvesting and packing of fruit.
CGA states that the citrus industry is expected to export 170-million cartons this season, however, if current issues at the ports persist, it will hamper citrus reaching key markets and have a severe impact on fruit quality and grower sustainability.
CGA calls on Gordhan to provide an update on the request for qualification published by Transnet earlier this year, related to introducing private sector participants in the Durban Port Container Terminal Pier 2 and Nqura Container Terminal.
The association says it would also appreciate an update on the planned R100-billion infrastructure development project at the Durban port that was announced in 2021.