State-owned port operator Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) is tracking ahead of a planned 13% increase in citrus export volumes across four of its 19 terminals this year.
In the face of Covid-19, actual citrus volumes are 29.4% higher across all terminals combined when compared with 2019 volumes.
The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal citrus season runs for six months and ends in October, while the Western Cape fruit season resumes in November.
According to the Citrus Growers Association, the yearly growth in export volumes is attributable to new orchards coming into production and good rains across some regions.
To date, there has been a higher output of lemons across the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
Actual citrus volumes are 20.2% higher at TPT’s Cape Town Container Terminal, 31.2% higher at the Durban Container Terminals (DCT) and 32.3% higher than the prior's year volumes at the Ngqura Container Terminal (NCT) and the Port Elizabeth Container Terminals (PECT).
TPT sales and new business development GM Siyabulela Mhlaluka says South Africa is halfway through the citrus season and, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, TPT is exceeding reefer (refrigerated shipping container) targets, having prepared well ahead.
He adds that yearly, the most critical element of terminal preparations, is the availability of equipment and having sufficient plug points and human resources. “We are in continuing discussions with customers to expand the 24-hour operations that we run across our terminals to limit congestion at peak hours for better cargo flow.”
Accounting for about 55% of South Africa’s fruit production, citrus fruits are exported in reefers to more than 100 countries, mainly in the European Union, Russia, the US and Mediterranean countries.
Valencia oranges make up the biggest portion of the citrus export market at 35%, followed by navel oranges (19%), lemons (18%), soft citrus (16%) and grapefruit (12%).
The PECT’s recent acquisition of two mobile harbour cranes that have been handed over to TPT’s operations division, adds additional capacity to the existing two cranes.
Mhlaluka points out that the recruitment of seasonal workers is continuing. In preparation for the season, the NCT had acquired 450 additional plug points.
In total, PECT has 1 000 reefer plug points; NCT 2 100; while DCT’s Pier 1 has 1 218 and Pier 2 has 1 920.
He adds that the key factor now lies in the seamless execution of a plan that will see all stakeholders adhering to effective and efficient gate arrival as TPT sets aside priority services for the reefer containers.
Before the citrus season is over, the DCT will have taken delivery of 23 straddle carriers to handle shipping containers.
While Covid-19 and inclement weather posed some serious challenges, especially in terms of the availability of human resources, Mhlaluka says TPT was geared up for a rather productive 2020 reefer season.
“The reality of the matter is that we are all part of communities and one confirmed positive case has serious impact. However, our efforts to date give us confidence in our ability to ensure a successful season.”