Container delays pose a challenge for citrus exports

Transnet decision to reduce staff at port terminals has had unintended consequences for the citrus industry.  

Container and vessel delays at some of the country’s ports, have lowered operation levels due to new port regulations.

“Getting fruit to our markets will remain a big challenge in the foreseeable future but efficiencies and capacity are slowly picking up, although it is not yet where it should be” said HORTGRO Jacques du Preez.

Situation is expected to be the new business norm, as export companies are said to have introduced Plan A, B, C and D.

It is widely believed that the new regulations enforced by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, under National Ports Act, 2005, to improve hygiene control and sterilizing facilities on ships, sea ports, port facilities created further delays in shipments and cargo congestion.  

According to FNB agricultural economist, Paul Makhube, port congestion and surrounding storage facilities were overwhelmed by cargo delays.

“With the citrus harvest already underway, focus is now on the logistics to ensure a smooth transit offshore given the recent COVID-19 induced bottlenecks across the country’s ports” he said.

Not all was lost, as the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) sounded relief at the prospects of rising demand of citrus by international markets, amid worldwide export restrictions.   

“We are pleased to have seen an increase in demand for lemons from overseas markets, with 4,5 million cartons having been shipped to date – double the 2019 volumes at the same time (1,8 million cartons)” said Justin Chadwick CEO at CGA.

64% of these bulk shipments were destined to the Middle East while shipments to Russia increased by 12% from 9% respectively. The citrus industry also shipped 424 000 cartoons of soft citrus and 411 00 cartons of grapefruit to date added Chadwick.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) also warned that it will dutifully carry out customs inspections for all cargos and will no longer be limited only to essential cargo.

“We will, however, still prioritise essential cargo for inspection in order to avoid any undue disruption in respect of the supply of critical goods” it said in a statement.

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